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FAQs on Establishing Cycling in Freshwater Systems 4

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for BeginnersWater Quality and Freshwater Aquariums

Related FAQs:  Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & Cycling Products, Biological Filtration, Freshwater Filtration, Freshwater Environmental Disease Nitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Ammonia, FW Nitrites, FW Nitrates, Chemical Filtrants,

A fabulous Echinodorus sp. at friend Morgan Lidster's Inland Aquatics, Terre Haute, Indiana. Having live plants helps to (at times instantly) cycle new systems.

Re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon???       9/4/16
Thanks for your response, Neale.
<Welcome.>
We use well water, no chlorine, but we still add conditioner to it to help keep the skin coating on the fish.
<Well water can, does absorb ammonia and other pollutants from the surrounding ground, especially in rural areas (nitrogenous compounds are often very high near farms that use fertilisers or rear livestock). So you should absolutely be using water conditioner, and a good one at that, even on well water.>
Our tap water is zero for ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. We've tested it many times. And the water itself was tested by the water softener guy and was clean.
<Do you use water from the bypass tap, or water that's been through the water softener? You should be doing the first, not the second. NEVER use water from a domestic water softener. Introduces all sorts of variables, including high sodium and zero carbonate hardness that can cause problems.>
We (well, Maria - I'm in the sidelines with a herniated disk in my lower back) are doing multiple 50% water changes until the ammonia is gone. We've done two today and will do a third tonight and again in the morning until the numbers are down. All the gravel is being washed in both tanks.
<Good.>
We are using that bottled bacteria, we don't have any other option.
<Is this refrigerated before purchase? If not, it's useless. Franky, even the refrigerated stuff is pretty ropey. I'm not a fan. I'm going to ask Bob's opinion on this, but I've come across FAR too many problems with tanks cycled without fish but with store-bought bacteria potions. My preferred method is to clone an existing filter, which is pretty much foolproof done right. Do you live near anyone with an aquarium? If they can donate half their mature media, which any mature filter can without problems, your tank would be instantly cycled. Hence, "cloning" a filter.
The donor filter can have 50% of its live media replaced with brand new sponges (or whatever) and experience NO noticeable drop in water quality.
Bacteria double in numbers every 20 minutes, the scientists tell us, and when you have a gazillion per cubic cm on a mature block of sponge, that means the donor filter will make up any losses very quickly. The problem, as you may realise now, is when you have none or just a few bacteria per cubic cm.>
Thanks again for your help and time.
<I do think things should settle down. What fish do you have now? If you change all the water, clean the filter as indicated (taking care not to over clean and kill the bacteria) and then feed sparingly, if at all, for a couple weeks, hardy fish (Danios, peppered Corydoras, 'feeder' guppies, etc.) can, do sail through the cycling process without much trouble if you change some water every day or two. Old school approach, and not widely recommended, but does work. The addition of floating aquarium plants, especially floating Indian Fern, is another 'magic bullet' from days gone
by. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon??? (RMF?)       9/4/16

1. We have been using softened water. We'll switch, but we're going to replace another fifty percent. Should we use the bypass tap for that? Or half half, if they're used to the softened water?
<I'd go the latter route, maybe 25% bypass/75% softened for the first water change, and so on across a week of water changes. Domestic softener water isn't good for fishkeeping for all sorts of reasons, and it's a shame that
the idea of "softening" water means different things to different people.
Please do check with the installer of your system, but most work by leaving general hardness as it is, but replacing carbonate hardness (limescale) with sodium ions. That's why people with blood pressure problems, for example, are told not to drink softened water. On top of that, with zero carbonate hardness your pH might not be stable between water changes, and a low pH (anything far below 7) will absolutely hammer biological filtration.
Indeed, some reports suggest it stops working completely below pH 6!>

2. We use Aqueon filters - a mesh bag with carbon in it. I guess you are talking about the mesh part of the filter?
<Nope. Take the carbon and throw it in the bin. Useless for freshwater fishkeeping. Actually, there are VERY SPECIFIC situations where carbon is handy, like removing leftover medication from a tank, but other than that... useless. Similarly anything labeled "ammonia remover" (Zeolite) is also useless for a normal tank, and again, chuck in the bin. Or at least lay down for use some other time! What your filter needs is plenty of biological media -- usually sponges and/or ceramic noodles. That's where the bacteria live.>
If we can find someone with a filter, would we just put that in the tank?
<Well, pretty much, yes. Easier to have that filter donate some sponges or ceramic noodles, and put those inside your new filter. Should jump-start it a treat.>
We have one white skirt tetra, one platy, and one Pleco in the tank. We DO have a second 20 gallon tank. Could we use the filter from that?
<Any filter more than a couple months old should be mature enough to donate some live media. That assumes temperature and water chemistry aren't very different. Obviously taking filter media from a hard water tank and sticking it in a soft water system would be nasty to the bacteria and likely to stress them (though not kill them).>
No, we just changed the filter in that, but I have that filter - it didn't dry out, so maybe use that? Should we not change the filters?
<I'm a bit concerned here. What do you mean by "change the filter"? You never "change" a biological filter. All you do -- every six weeks to six months depending on how well flow rate is holding up -- is rinse the live biological media under a lukewarm tap to get rid of the muck. Periodically (every five years or so) you might want to replace a really irredeemably grubby sponge, and every ten or twenty years you might change some of the ceramic noodles. But even then, you'd only change, say, a quarter to a half of the media at any one time. Really, a biological filter should be left
alone as much as possible, and the golden rule is "if in doubt, and water is still flowing through it, leave it alone". You should absolutely NOT be changing media every time you change water! For sure the manufacturers will want you to change carbon and ammonia remover every week or two, and they're right to recommend that -- such media needs frequent replacing. But those media are totally unnecessary in the average freshwater aquarium.
Some filters are designed around carbon and Zeolite modules, but they're a con, and I spurn them! Focus on sponges, noodles, and perhaps a small layer of filter floss to trap silt (and the filter floss will need replacing or cleaning quite frequently, if it bungs up).>
If we put the fish in another tank, how would you suggest that we restart the 38 gallon tank as new tank? From scratch?
<See above; I'm a bit worried you're doing something to the filter that's preventing it from maturing. Perhaps I've misunderstood? Neale.>
Re: Is our tank possessed by an ammonia demon??? (RMF?)       9/4/16
sigh. You have not misunderstood.
<Oh dear.>
We have been doing what they told us to do: using the carbon filter for the Aqueon pump and changing it out when dirty.
http://www.aqueonproducts.com/products/filtration/
<Got you now. I don't know these filters, so can't be sure about their design. But usually these small internal canister filters have two or three 'chambers' inside them. Ideally, the water passes through a mechanical medium first to trap dirt, a second stage of biological media to clean the water of ammonia and nitrite, and finally (and optionally) a chemical medium (such as carbon, peat or Zeolite) to chemically change the water somehow. This last stage is a total waste of filter space in most freshwater tanks. Furthermore, the mechanical and biological stages can be combined if you're limited with space. Sponges and ceramic noodles will trap silt as well as house bacteria, and so long as you only rinse them gently in aquarium-temperature water (even a bucket of old aquarium water during water changes) then you'll keep the bacteria on that medium in tip-top condition as well as rinsing off the dirt. Make sense? Now, I don't
know which filter you have from their range. But I'd suggest looking at the instruction leaflet or packaging, or heck, just email me the make and model number. Once we know which filter we're talking about, we can plan accordingly. One option though is that if your filter has simple empty chambers that you're meant to put proprietary cartridges into, those chambers can still be stuffed with filter floss or ceramic noodles. Filter floss is cheap and crams nicely into awkward shapes. Don't over pack it though or you'll stop the flow of water. Also, the other problem is that it clogs up quickly and isn't really washable more than once or twice, so you have to be careful about replacing no more than 50% per month. Ceramic noodles are more expensive, especially the really good brands (such as Siporax and Eheim Substrat Pro) which hold the most bacteria per cubic centimetre. Being a loose but solid medium you can stuff it into a
compartment without worrying about clogging up the flow of water. So it's a better medium in all but the smallest and most awkwardly shaped filters. Of course your particular canister filter may have proper biological cartridges on sale, and these are the ones to use if that's an option.>
We are using the Aqueon pumps and I don't know if they have a filter like the one you are talking about. If you don't like their products what do you suggest? These things get pretty dirty. Maria can go get the new media now, but we don't know what to get. We THOUGHT we did, but obviously we were listening to the wrong people.
<Possibly. Since you already have an existing aquarium, cloning that tank's filter should be easy. Can some media be removed from that filter? Or even, worst come to the worst, scrape off the top 1 cm gravel from the old tank
and add it to the gravel in the new filter. The top layer is where some filter bacteria live, so while it's not as good as cloning a filter, it'll provide a heck of a jump start to any new aquarium, speeding up the cycling process a lot. As mentioned before, adding a handful of floating plants is another good way to get things moving. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Major cycling issues      9/3/16
Hey Crew.
Sorry for asking but I am at a complete loss.
I purchased a four foot long, 90 gallon aquarium at the end of March, to transfer my fish from my old 15 gallon tank.
I upgraded to a large canister filter but used all my old filter media in it and just topped it up with new media.
I didn't anticipate any problems. I thought I might have to watch my water chemistry for a few days.
I always preheat my water to the same temperature as my tank, treat it with prime and then add it after 5 minutes. So I followed this routine when filling my new tank, and then added my filter and fish.
But something went wrong, and it is like my bacteria have all died out.
<Does happen...>
It's been a few months, and I still have at least 1ppm of ammonia in the tank after a week if I don't do water changes every other day. I don't even understand where all the ammonia is coming from,
<... the water? Foods? Life?>
all I have in the tank currently are 3 harlequin Rasboras, although I also currently have a pond snail infestation. I feed every second day.
I thought my test kit must be testing wrong but I bought a liquid test kit and the results are correct. Lots of ammonia, no nitrites, no nitrates. I have plants in the tank so they might take up some nitrites/nitrates, no idea.
<Have you tried using a bacterial product to move the cycling process along? I would. Dr. Tim's line is a fave.>
I have no idea what wiped out the bacteria to start with, and no idea why this tank is showing no signs of cycling. It's been months. I lost 3 of my 6 harlequins to fungus, and I don't want to lose the others. (I decided at one point to slow my water changes to see if too many were inhibiting the cycle)
Please help!
<Something forestalling establishment of bio-geo-nutrient cycling here. A few possibilities. Please read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwestcycling.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Major cycling issues       9/5/16

Thanks Bob,
I'll try the bottled bacteria you suggested.
<Good>
I'm worried that whatever caused the bacteria to die off and is inhibiting the new cycle will make it ineffective but I will give it a go.
<This is what I'd do. Am hopeful that enough beneficial microbes will overwhelm whatever is the issue here>
If this doesn't work, what would you suggest?
<Dumping, bleach washing all, rinsing a few times, refilling and trying again. There are a few "scenarios" that might explain the observations here... restarting can solve most all>
I read that a lack of calcium could cause this but my PH sits at 7.2 and doesn't fluctuate, so I doubt this is the issue.
<Me too>
There are no spray products used in the house, so I don't think chemicals getting into the tank are an issue either :/
<A mystery... that we could pursue if you'd like... Bob Fenner>
Re: Major cycling issues   8/7/16

I am curious. I understand that you are busy and have lots of more urgent emails to deal with. If you do have time, could give me some of the scenarios. I like to learn and would appreciate a better understanding of what could have gone on here.
<Some of the scenarios? That forestall the establishment of (nitrogen) cycling? Okay, categorically the ones that come to mind:
1) Lack of essential nutrient, or TOO much of said nutrients. E.g. no assimilable ammonia, or excess will starve or poison nitrifiers. Have seen folks pouring in too much concentrated exogenous NH3/NH4OH and wondering what was going on...
need to use a bit of organic source (foods are best) and let "rot"/decompose.
2) A paucity of alkalinity; in particular carbonate/bicarbonate... the metabolism of nitrification is reductive; drives pH down.... you state your pH is 7.2 so this is not likely a/the issue.
3) Presence of other microbes/bacteria... that outcompete, poison desired species. "Wipe out syndromes" are commonly attributed to these conditions.
4) Other sources of toxicity: Metal contaminants, medications, saponifiers like soap residue....
Bob Fenner>

Cycling question      8/31/16
Hi there
<Jason>
I know you must get this sort of question a lot , but I need a definitive answer.
<Let's see if I/we have one>
Set up a new 300 litre tank that will house Malawi cichlids 14 days ago , Have buffered the tank with crushed coral and is holding stable at 8.0 ph , I started the cycle with Tetra safe start and the water parameters as of last night were as follows , ammonia 1 mg per litre, Nitrite 2mg per litre and the Nitrate is between 25 and 50 mg per litre ,
<Mmm; all three nitrogenous compounds present at the same time... the Ammonia should "go to zero" soon (days) and then the Nitrite soon after>
I am doing a fishless cycle currently and would like to know what these parameters suggest ,
<Progress>

as far as I know after being in the hobby for 10 years that the ammonia and the Nitrites should drop to 0 pretty soon as the Nitrate level is present ,
<Ah yes>
or has something gone wrong in the cycle somehow.
<Agreed... >
The crushed coral was bought at a local fish store but seems that the coral had been used previously in filters but was dry and dusty and was thoroughly cleaned prior to filling tank.
Tested the tap water and came out zero on all fronts and the ph was 5 .
<Wow; I'd be pre-treating new water in a container OUTSIDE the tank; storing for a few days/week ahead of use, TESTING before adding to the system>

Regards Jason Liffmann
<And you. Patience here... and if NH3/NH4OH and NO2 don't go in a few days, do check the water with other test gear. Bob Fenner>
Cycling question /Neale      9/1/16

Hi there
<Jason,>
I know you must get this sort of question a lot , but I need a definitive answer.
<Understood.>
Set up a new 300 litre tank that will house Malawi cichlids 14 days ago , Have buffered the tank with crushed coral and is holding stable at 8.0 ph,
<Good. Though personally, I'd be relying on carbonate hardness added to the water with each water change. 0.5 to 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per 5 US gallons/20 litres should do the trick nicely.>
I started the cycle with Tetra safe start and the water parameters as of last night were as follows, ammonia 1 mg per litre, Nitrit 2mg per litre and the Nitrat is between 25 and 50 mg per litre,
<Currently lethal conditions for fish! But what you'd expect early on in the cycle.>
I am doing a fishless cycle currently and would like to know what these parameters suggest,
<Within the normal range.>
as far as I know after being in the hobby for 10 years that the ammonia and the Nitrites should drop to 0 pretty soon as the Nitrat level is present,
<Ammonia usually drops to zero within 2-3 weeks, and nitrite something like 3-6 weeks, but this is not totally predictable. Nonetheless, after 6 weeks the tank should be safely cycled. Fishless cycling doesn't always work first time. You can add a helping hand by adding some fish food. Why?
Because the complex chemicals provide nutrients for saprotrophic bacteria.
The nitrifying bacteria use ammonia and then nitrite, but fish wastes aren't necessary just ammonia. They can be other chemicals as well, urea for example, and uneaten food as well. So saprotrophic bacteria need to be there too.>
or has something gone wrong in the cycle somehow.
<Not necessarily.>
The crushed coral was bought at a local fish store but seems that the coral had been used previously in filters but was dry and dusty and was thoroughly cleaned prior to filling tank.
<Understood.>
Tested the tap water and came out zero on all fronts and the ph was 5 .
<Yikes! That's some very acidic water!>
Regards Jason
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Cycling question     9/2/16

Thanks Neal
<Welcome.>
Was concerned with the high Nitrat reading , threw me a bit .
<Understood. For a start, the test kits aren't that accurate, hence the "25 to 50 mg/l" range your test kit indicated. You also have to look at the nitrate level in your tap water. London tap water for example can easily have 40 mg/l nitrate!>
Did a 50 water change last night and all the levels predictably dropped by half so ammonia 0.5 mg per litre Nitrit 1.0 mg per litre and Nitrat between 25 mg and 50 mg per litre , didn't check phosphate level previously but have checked now and the readings are between 1 and 2 MG per litre.
<Fine.>
As far as my thinking goes may have not cleaned the substrate and rock well enough , your thoughts on this and should I just carry on cycling and see if it corrects itself.
<Carry on. Fishless cycling just isn't as reliable as cycling with fish, unfortunately! It does take a while for the whole thing to settle down. Just persist.>
Or should I boil al the rocks and the substrate and restart the cycle with a few fish with another bottle of Safe Start.
<Tetra Safe Start does not add bacteria! You can't do a fishless cycle with this product on its own. It really isn't anything more than fancy water conditioner. You need to be adding ammonia, which I think you're doing, and waiting for the bacteria to arrive. They're in the air, but you can speed things up by adding floating plants, which carry lots of them on their feathery roots.>
Regards Jason
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Starting up fish keeping again. FW cycling       6/27/14
Hi,
<Steve>
As per title, today I have filled up my tank (210 UK litres / 46 UK gallons) with tap water + recommended water treatment dosage. For the substrate, I have selected 'Colombo flora base' which I hear is a very good product.
<Ah yes>
The main purpose of my email, however, is to make sure I am approaching the nitrification cycle correctly (fishless, of course). So far, I have set the temperature to 26C, as I understand that this will help?
<Yes; warmer is better; more expedient>
Am I right to assume that I test the water in a few days, then start adding a fish flake or two, or should I start adding a tiny amount of food now?
<Yes>
I appreciate that the magic ingredient here is time, so if it takes six weeks for the ecosystem to become stable, then that's more than fine by me.
<Ah, good>
Thank you.
Kind Regards,
Steve.
<And you; Bob Fenner>

Seeding & black spots... Tank cycling, clng.         2/3/13
I acquired another aquarium 30 gallons from a family member. It was good with no leaks as I saw. Its been in garage for 2 months as I had got a 60 gallon and been focused on it.
I decided to use it when getting a blood parrot cichlid for my community.
Stupid. Its not a community fish. So bp will get 60.
<Okay>
I have a canister filter for 60 and added a hob filter to seed. Can this be done in 24 hours?
<Yes>
I thought about taking gravel from 60 and adding to 30. I can even use the water from aquarium.
<Good>
My bioload will be fine. I have 7 glass catfish, 2 bamboo shrimp, and 5 danios. Had 6 danios but 1 disappeared. Trying to prevent spikes.
<But the cichlid is to be kept separately I hope/trust>
Before I move them, I need to clean 30. It was not well managed as sealant has black specs in it and calcium buildup. Any tips to clean?
<Dilute organic acid... CH3COOH... vinegar... as gone over and over on WWM.
Bob Fenner>
Thanks,
TJ

Tropical Fish Question; FW, est. cycling      1/3/14
Hello. I recently purchased a 60 gallon combo with a Magnum canister filter. I've been researching about ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate cycle. I decided to start off beginning fish for now to save heartache with the small challenge of a few plants.
<Great to read>
 I added 4 Zebra Danios (I need to add more after researching) and 2 tall plants and 2 small ones, but I don't think I've done the cycle as people say I need to.
<Patience here>
 I've bought the API tests and have done them all. Ammonia is 0, Nitrite is 0, and nitrate is maybe above zero as it is not the bright yellow as the card wants but it's not orange. I've run the test a few times. I had let the tank run a day before putting them in there to "roll the dice." I've done a 50% water change after it was up for 2 days with fish. I have not done the test after though. All this leads up to my question. Besides jumping the gun, what have I done wrong to prepare my tank?
<Nothing that is apparent>
 I want to make sure this "spike" I hear about doesn't hurt them later on.
My Zebra Danios are still alive and they act happy after the water change but you know, just a worrier.
Thanks!
TJ
<Best to just not add any more livestock for now... feed sparingly. Test every few days for an indication of accumulating Nitrate. This will come in time; heralding the establishment of cycling; granting you the go-ahead for adding more life here. Bob Fenner>
RE: Tropical Fish Question     1/3/14

Thanks
<Welcome>

Quarantine tank: cycled or uncycled?     12/16/13
Cycling a Quarantine Tank

Hello, I have a 20-gallon QT. I have always kept it cycled by keeping 2 small goldfish in it at all times (although right now it is housing my 4 1/2-month-old fry, who is almost big enough to be put in my 36 gallon with my smaller fish). When I need to use it as a QT for a new or sick goldfish, I remove the fish that are in there and put them in one of my other two cycled tanks. I keep only goldfish and mystery snails.
Recently I read something on another goldfish site that would imply I have been doing this all wrong. I was told that a QT should not be kept cycled, and should only be set up when needed and then santitized and taken down when it is no longer needed to prevent contamination. They said 100% daily water changes or the bucket-to-bucket method should be employed while the fish is in QT to maintain clean and ammonia-free water.
I am just curious about your opinion on this, as I have always seen and received helpful and sound advice from the WWM crew! Thank you,
Amand
< You are to be congratulated for having a QT tank. This is a big mistake that many aquarists make by not having one. I agree with the goldfish site.
When you get a new fish they are usually stressed and are subject to diseases. If a fish was to become sick in the QT and a medication was needed, the medication will usually affect the nitrifying bacteria thus making the cycled tank pretty useless. I am aware that many medications claim not to affect the bacteria but I have found that they do.-Chuck>
Re: Quarantine tank: cycled or uncycled?
Cycling a QT II      12/17/13

Thank you very much, Chuck. I have heard differing opinions on the matter and the argument about medications affecting the beneficial bacteria is a good one. The other argument for keeping a QT tank uncycled I have heard is that any pathogens or parasites brought in by previous fish could remain in the tank if it is not taken down and sanitized after each use. I just wanted to get a second opinion.
My plan is to get two large Sterilite tubs, add a sponge filter and do the bucket-to-bucket method for my next QT. Does this sound like a good idea?
< No. You need to be able to adequately observe the new fish in detail to catch any early signs of problems. These tubs do not offer the clarity needed to see the fish. I would recommend a bare 10 gallon tank. Most medications are prepackaged for dosages of 10 gallon increments. A bare tank should be pretty close to 10 gallons.  A bare bottom also lets you see leftover food and fish waste so it can be siphoned out every day while doing water changes. A heater is needed to bring the water temp at least up to 82 F to treat Ich in a timely manner. A light is needed so you can see the fish. Use an airstone to oxygenate the water. You don't need a filter.
You want to see the waste and take it out of the tank every day. I would use a 4 inch piece of PVC pipe in the tank for fish to hide but can still be observed through the ends of the tube. Hope this helps. Chuck>
This is what the other site recommended.
I fully support the use of QT tanks, and wish they were better promoted and used by pet stores. They are so important for ensuring that nothing gets into your main tank that you don't want in there, among many other reasons.

Cycling a Tank - 10/04/12
Dear Guys,
<Jeff>
I have been having a debate with the boys from the TV series Tanked regarding tank cycling. They contend one can add fish to a brand new tank simultaneously so long as cultures are added to the water.
<Can be; esp. if the system is "large" compared w/ the fish>
From ATM: "You score a 50 here. Better than most with nitrifying bacteria!
Correct live sand doesn't cycle. Wrong..cultures do and easily."
<?>
I contend you have to wait at least 2-3 weeks before adding livestock to a new aquarium. Your thoughts? Are cultures sufficient?
<I'd wait also... there are too many "things" that settle, become better w/ time w/ "just new" set-ups... Better by far for all to wait at least a week after filling, testing a system, its components... to add purposeful livestock (and bacterial culture/s).>
Sincerely,
Jeff Shain
<Bob Fenner>

Fishless cycling setback?     9/26/12
Hello WWM crew!
<Hi Maria.>
I am very grateful for your site and helpfulness. I have a 20 gallon long that I have been fishless cycling for 2 1/2 weeks. I have been using janitorial ammonia, adding daily to maintain ammonia levels at 1 ppm. I have a small 2 1/2 gallon cycled tank that I took filter media from to seed the new filter. Within a few days the ammonia was being reduced to zero by morning so I kept adding small amounts of ammonia daily while waiting on nitrites/nitrates. About a week in I changed my mind on substrate(was previously gravel). I decided to use smooth silica sand. I figured was best to change before fish were in. <Wise> So not wanting to completely disrupt the cycling process I removed half of the gravel, replacing it with sand, then 5 days later removed most of the remaining gravel replacing it with sand. So now my substrate is sand with some of the gravel remaining. The problem is now my ammonia is high again and not reducing, 2 ppm. Nitrites are very high, 2-3 ppm depending on the test, which I obsessively perform regularly. I haven't added any ammonia because it's not resolving. Today I took more filter media from my small tank to add to the filter again in case I killed it off by changing the substrate. Have I completely set myself back? Is the tank completely re-cycling? Thanks so much in advance for your time and trouble.
<Since you have nitrites, the cycle isn't ruined. That said, there is a such thing as having too much ammonia in the tank and the substrate does house some of the beneficial bacteria, just not as much as the filter media. I would do a 50% water change to get some of the nitrites and ammonia out of there, and check the water again in 12 hours to see if things are back in control.>
Maria
<Rick>
Re Fishless cycling setback? 9/26/12
Hi Rick
<Marya>
 thanks so much for your prompt response! I will do the water change first thing in the morning as it is late now. Really appreciate your time.
Thanks,
Good luck, hope that solves the problem. -Rick>
Marya
Re: Fishless cycling setback? 9/25/12   9/27/12

Hi Rick,
<Marya>
Hope all is well.
<Doing fine.>
I did the 50% water change this morning. I just tested the parameters and the ammonia is now at .5 ppm and the nitrites are at 2. Should I do another water change tomorrow or just let it be?
<I'd try to bring the nitrites down a bit more. You are probably in the middle of the nitrite spike right now, so just keep an eye on it. Hopefully the numbers will start to drop soon and the nitrates will start showing up.>
Thanks again, really appreciate it,
<Welcome>
Marya
<Rick>
Re: Fishless cycling setback? 9/25/12   9/27/12

Hi Rick,
<Marya>
I just tested them again and now ammonia and nitrites are 0 and nitrates are 40. It happened do fast that I don't trust it! Is it cycled? Or is it too good to be true (hahaha)?
<Yeah, I'd be skeptical. Maybe try doing a 50% water change, and then add some ammonia and see what happens to it overnight.>
Thanks,
<Welcome>
Marya
<Rick>
Re: Fishless cycling setback? 9/25/12   9/27/12
Ok thanks I'll give it a go and keep you posted. Thank you soooo much for your time.
<Good luck.>
Marya
<Rick>
Re: Fishless cycling setback? 9/25/12    9/30/12

Hi Rick,
<Marya>
I'm starting to feel like a moron, I checked parameters and the results were 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 40 nitrates. I did a 30% water change using Tetra AquaSafe Plus on the new water from my tap. I tested the ammonia in the tank immediately after and the ammonia was at .50! Nitrites are still 0 and nitrates are 20. Well upon determining that my tap water contains ammonia (arg) I now have to question how to go about weekly water changes safely without adding ammonia to a cycled tank? I have Seachem Prime which I could use but am under the impression that it only handles ammonia for 24 hours and can be harmful to the bacteria. Is this true or should I be using it instead? Will setting the water out a week ahead take care of ammonia as well? Sorry for the trouble, you have been more than patient and kind.
<Water companies add ammonia to water to combine with the chlorine to form chloramine, a more stable sanitizing agent. If you have a good biological filter built up, the microbes may be able to simply metabolize the excess ammonia and you won't have to do much.  If the ammonia is too high, then either using prime or using zeolite are possibilities.  Since you don't have any fish in there yet, why not do a partial water change, test the water for ammonia immediately after the change, then test again in a few hours. See if the cycle can handle the ammonia load.>
Thanks,
<Welcome>
Marya
<Rick>

Moving ADFs to larger tank - cycling with live substrate    2/10/12
Hello,
<Hello,>
Thank you in advance for taking the time to help me.
<Most welcome.>
I've searched high and low but can't seem to find the exact answer to this question. I'm moving my ADFs (2 of them) up to a larger aquarium. Previously, I wasn't using a filter, as I was told when I bought them that the living substrate would act as a filter.
<Ah, not really, no. Obviously that's what happens in the wild. But in an aquarium the size of the tank and the area of the substrate are really out of all proportion to the livestock we're keeping. If you kept those two frogs in a well-planted 20 gallon tank, I dare say you could get away without a filter. But I'm assuming you're not, and provided a minimum-sized aquarium (5 gallons, no less!) for these frogs. That's too small for plants and substrate along to "clean", hence the need for the filter.>
Now I want to use a filter in addition to the same substrate, as I also use live plants. The live sand advertises that because it contains the 'good' bacteria already that I don't need to do a traditional cycling of the aquarium. Is this true?
<Sort of, but it doesn't actually mean anything. All gravel and all sand eventually get colonised with "good" bacterial (by which we mean filter bacteria that turn frog and fish wastes into harmless chemicals such as nitrate). There's no need at all to buy anything special if you can take the time to (3-6 weeks) to cycle the tank. If you already have the substrate from the original aquarium, you can remove that and mix that with any new sand or gravel, and it'll be instantly colonised with the bacteria, and in a week or two should be entirely cycled and mature, much more quickly that cycling the tank from scratch.>
This is what I've done so far: laid living substrate, filled the tank using old water that equals about 1/3 of the tank, dropped in whatever food was leftover from the other tank from breakfast. I would add some old media to the filter, but I wasn't using the filter so I don't have any. I want to move my froggies into their new home as soon as possible, but obviously I also want to do it right.
<Again, moving live filter media from another tank will work nicely.>
This is a side question - I always see information on what to feed my frogs, but not much specifically on how much. Usually I read, "What they eat in five minutes." My frogs never eat immediately after I feed them, so I leave it over night and clean up in the morning. Is that ok?
<Sure. Overfeeding is less of a problem with the frogs and more about water quality. So long as water quality is good (i.e., zero ammonia and nitrite) and the frogs don't look fat (they shouldn't look like they've swallowed bowling balls) then all is well.>
I have a big gal and a little guy, so I would think they don't eat the same quantity of food.
<You'd think.>
I got into this not knowing what I was doing and have learned a lot along the way. I am DETERMINED to keep these frogs healthy! Thanks for your help.
Nicole
<Hmm… do read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/FrogsArtNeale.htm
Cheers, Neale.>

Hi Crew. FW, cycling, rdg. 2/20/12
<Johan>
I might be very wrong here so please explain some of the "basic need to knows"
<Best to send you to what is posted on WWM; to give you an idea of the types of info. we're looking for to help you>
I recently started a new planted tank, and after some unexpected mistakes I made, I now have a LED based lighting setup I am very proud of. Its basically 2 x10W floodlights and one 18x .4W CREE 50/50 lights, over an open top 20G planted tank, I also have some CO2 fertilization. Plant are doing well, some plants grow as much as 12cm a week, I honestly remove 30% of the plants weekly.
<Impressive>
Question 1..
Fishless cycling a tank.. What do you mean by that..
<Not having fishes in the system while it/you are establishing bio-geo-chemical nutrient cycling>
Reason I'm asking, I tested the water, NH3 --> NO2 --> NO3 Tap water contains some of each, the NH3 barely change colour, NO2 I don't even know if there is any, it turn light yellow the lowest colour <5ppm on the chart and NO2 the same its just turning yellow also showing >2ppm on the chart.
<Odd, there should be no NH3 or NO2...>
The tank is currently heavily planted but.. adding 16 Rummy nose tetra's to the tank, kicked the NH3 to 50ppm,
<Nah; all would be dead>

NO2 to about the same but NO3 stayed 0. Took the tank 4days to get levels all down to 0, except NO3 that's now back to the light yellow at about >2ppm I'm pretty sure NO3 is consumed by the plants, but the point is the tank cycled once I added the fish, now understanding the "cycling" is done right? Or is it cycled for what I have? Because..
<Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above>
I added 2 more Rams and 7 Peppered Corydoras to the tank,
<I would slow down here...>
and once again the NH3 spiked, this time its even worse, this was after I was pretty sure the tank is cycled. This time 3days when by before everything is leveled off the 0
This makes me think, the tank cycles every time you add or remove fish or plants.
<Once cycled, not often, no>
So, I was wondering, is a tank really ever cycled? I mean the initial NH3 spike when the tank is new does take weeks to recover, but still..
This bringing me to Question 2
My MARINA Cubus Betta cube.. I never cycle it.. its just got its factory fitted light and 2 Java Fern's that's stuck to a rock in the centre. No gravel, but I do vacuum the bottom every morning with a piece of airline tubing replacing about 500ml water daily. And I clean the whole thing every second week, and by cleaning I mean I empty it, and wipe the calcium residue ( just above the water line ) spotlessly clean.. we don't have hard water at all, but there is visible water marking I just don't want. But ...
The water also shows very low numbers of NH3/NO2 and NO3.
<Likely there are sufficient nitrifying microbes, perhaps denitrifiers on the Ferns and rock...>
I have this small cube for about 4 weeks now, so I hope its not a ticking time bomb.
Thank you
Johan Jonker
<Read. Bob Fenner>

Tank set-up and fish advice.   2/7/12
G'day.
<G'day!>
Found your site shortly after I got my fish set up on their tank and thought I might seek advice on a couple of matters. I have a 36L tank (about 9.5gal)
<Small...>
with a beta, Bristlenose Pleco (2.5cm), black balloon molly, golden swordtail and red wagtail platy.
<'¦ and much overstocked, mis-stocked.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlivestk.htm
>
I 'think' they're all male, I stupidly forgot to keep track of what genders I was buying. Using fake plants; one leafy plant provides a low dark hiding area and a couple of others. Gravel substrate. 100W lamp set to 25 degrees Celsius and a filter that pumps a max of 350L/hour. I have a pH testing kit and it's hovering around 7.5 with daily testing and adjustment at the moment. I'm feeding them fish flakes and algae wafers. Flakes twice a day and algae wafer once a day. I've had this setup since Wednesday and my fish 'seem' to be doing mostly fine.
<For now. How did you cycle the filter beforehand?
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwset-up.htm
For the first few days ammonia levels won't be much above zero and the fish will look fine. But a week in and ammonia will rocket, and a week later nitrite; both of these are lethal to your fish.>
My bristle nose appeared to lose a bit of colour, and a nearby fish shop suggested I do a partial water change every 3 days for a while.
<And the rest! If the filter wasn't matured for 4-6 weeks before adding the fish, you will need to do 25% water changes every 1-2 days. Trust me on this. Things may look fine, but that means nothing. If you don't do this, your fish will sooner or later start gasping and looking lethargic, and not long after you'll find your first sick or dead fish.>
My platy is currently spending most of his time hiding under the leafy plant and chasing away the swordtail when it comes near. Ignores the other fish.
From reading some of the FAQ's I'm running under the assumption that these could be stress and environmental issues. I don't have an ammonia testing kit (cost is rapidly becoming an issue).
<Get a nitrite (with an "i", not nitrate with an "a") test kit. It's the one kit you MUST have. All the others are optional extras, provided you know your water chemistry -- i.e., if you have soft water or hard water.>
I ran the filter in the tank for a few days before getting the fish, but didn't really understand why so probably didn't do anything and I'm assuming I don't have a good bacterial colony to break down the ammonia, so I'm trying to feed them less and performing the water changes. Using a gravel-vac for the water change. I don't think there's any specific illness as there haven't been any other symptoms I've noticed.
So is this a reasonable diagnosis?
<Yes.>
Anything else you would suggest I do to make my fish more comfortable?
<See above; read.>
Also, I'm wondering if it's a good idea to get any more fish. Under the "2cm of fish for 1L",
<No!!!! Far too many fish. The old "inch per gallon rule" works out at about 2.5 cm per 4 litres. But this rule assumes [a] you're keeping small fish and [b] your aquarium is big enough for them in other ways too. Let's take an extreme example of a Great White Shark measuring 4 m, or 400 cm. If you allowed 2 cm for every 1 litre, that's be 200 litres for that fish. Obviously stupid. So, any of these rules is only as useful as the thought the fishkeeper applies when using them. For a 10 gallon tank, your fish are almost all the wrong size and temperament, needing more space -- Swordtails are fast-moving fish that need a tank more than 80 cm long, and Mollies are so aggressive and can get so big that anything less than 100 litres makes no sense at all. Even Platies, though somewhat smaller and less active, need more than 36 litres.>
if all these fish get to full size, then I'll fill half my quota. I'm thinking a small school of some kind of tetra, or one or two larger blue fish (blue to bring a little more colour to the tank). Or I may get some of the same species for company if my fish need it. So any advice on that subject would be welcome.
<For 36 litres, a school of 8-10 Neons and 6 "pygmy" Corydoras (such as Corydoras hastatus) would be about right, perhaps with a few Red Cherry Shrimp for colour.>
Cheers Olias
<And likewise, cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tank set-up and fish advice.    2/9/12

G'day again.
Thanks for your comments. It can always be hard to hear how bad your doing even if you already know it. But I appreciate because it's not my own comfort I'm looking out for here.
<Real good.>
The water had previously been cycled for 5 days with everything but the fish in place.
<It'll take at least 3, 4 weeks for the biological filter to mature --
assuming you're adding a source of ammonia. If all you're doing is running the filter with no ammonia source, then nothing will happen. It's just getting wet! The easiest way to cycle the tank is to add a small pinch of flake food daily. It'll rot and produce ammonia. Use your ammonia test kit; the ammonia level should rise to 1, 2 mg/l, maybe a little higher. But it'll eventually drop down to zero, at which point the filter is halfway to be mature. Keep doing the daily flake feedings another 2 weeks, and the second half of the process (nitrite to nitrate) should be done.>
I've already done a couple of water changes already but I'll bump up how often I do it. I also notice it's difficult to get around the plants and decor with the gravel-vac. Would it be a bad idea to remove the decor before starting a water change and replace them afterward?
<Makes no real difference. Keep the tank clean and remove uneaten food (once fish are installed) and any other organic crud but don't worry too much about cleaning the tank completely every week.>
As to the mis-stocking, ignoring for a moment the tank size, would it have been better if only one of the swordtail, balloon molly, and platy were male and the other 2 female? (I'm beating myself over the head for not checking what genders I was picking up.) Or is it generally bad to keep all those live bearers in the same tank? I see now the molly was a poor beginner choice.
<None of these species belongs in a 30-40 litre tank. Do read the articles linked last time.>
I may have gotten the numbers mixed up and it should've been 1cm/2L which is closed to the inch/gal.
I'll see about getting a nitrite testing kit as soon as I can. In the longer term I'll also see about acquiring a larger tank.
Thanks again for clarification.
Olias
<Glad to help, Neale.>

Re: Tank cycling, FW    10/3/11
Hi Crew,
<Rhi>
Thought I'd send through a follow up on my last email in case it helps someone wondering the same thing and this can help: after another few days of zero readings in my tank (also notice a spread of algal growth from the original small covering on one rock ornament I moved from my cycled tank), I decided it was probably cycled and began the process of moving over the goldfish. I moved one over (nb: all 4 goldfish are sizeable - around 10cm or so) and left it for two days, then moved a second over. As I moved the second over I did an ammonia test and finally got a reading (1.0ppm). I immediately transferred the two new goldfish back to the other tank (noticed one sitting on the bottom of the tank for a moment - may or may not have been ammonia related, but didn't want to risk killing one of them) and performed a 50% water change. I left the 5 Danios, 6 white clouds and small goldfish (approx 4cm) in there while cycling. Have done water changes a few times over the last week when readings have been as high as 0.5ppm, ammonia has never gotten higher than this since the initial reading. When I got the first ammonia reading, nitrate/nitrite were zero. The following days the tests began testing positive for both simultaneously. Nitrate reached 0.25ppm max, and nitrate reached 5.0ppm maximum. Both quickly fell to zero simultaneously - I never witnessed peaks of one following another I've read about everywhere. Have been getting ammonia readings since the other two fell to zero, which strikes me as odd, I would have thought ammonia would fall first.
<Generally yes; but recycling events are not unusual >
Ammonia has been falling over the weekend without water changes. At last test tonight, ammonia is perhaps still 0.25ppm, maybe less but that is the first increment on the test chart. It's hard to tell as the colour gradation on the test kit is subtle: been relying on 'control' tests from my cycled tank to compare the colour against for differences.
So I presume either the cycling was delayed, or (which I feel may be more likely but am not experienced enough to be sure) that the tank was not matured enough and the addition of the goldfish overloaded the biological filter and started a new mini cycle.
<Ah yes; more the second than the first>
Am waiting for the readings to read zero again then will move another goldfish - I feel it is better to move one at a time so as not to overload it, but noticed the first transferred goldfish seemed very stressed until I added a buddy from the other tank so I'm conflicted about what is the least cruel.
Kind regards,
Rhiannon.
<Thank you for your report. BobF>

Seeding a canister filter.    9/29/11
Hello Crew! Once again thanks for all the help in the past and aiding with my 7 aquariums! On my 55g African(ish) biotope, which includes one African knife, One Polypterus senegalus and one Synodontis Eupterus, with some Anubias and dwarf grass in the foreground (reason for the ish). Here's a video (sorry if its against protocol to send a YouTube video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lcZy07SEQI . (The platys tetra and other random fish were there just while I moved their tanks around and now it is just the 3 mentioned. Anyways, I previously had two 55g rated hob filters that the tank cycled with. However on my 29g Biocube, the pump recently crapped out which I took apart and found a broken axle.
<Can be purchased separately>
I removed one of the
HoB style filters and placed it on the Biocube, and purchased an (expensive) Eheim 65g rated canister filter.
<I use Eheims as well>
This combined with the HoB gives me about
7-8X turn over rate.
<Good>
I definitely see the difference! The water turned crystal clear and the tank looks amazing. My question is, should I add some bio-media from a used cartridge filter into it to "seed' the beneficial bacteria? Or should I just let it do that on its own.
<On an established system, I'd go the latter route>
PS If Neale sees this, awhile ago I asked about an aggressive convict who I thought to be male, however after venting it is a female, and it did kill my male convict within one night. She got so big because she never bred, so she just grew and grew, and now is really aggressive.
<Interesting. Bob Fenner>

ammonia, nitrates aren't rising - FW cycling   9/11/11
Hi Neale,
<Hello Anne,>
I have a 29G FW aquarium that was set up a week back. I had the bio-wheel filtration, gravel, heater, plastic plants, and decor set up on Saturday. I let it run for 2 days
<Letting the tank run for 2 days didn't do anything beyond tell you the aquarium was watertight! It takes at least 4 weeks to cycle an aquarium, and if you were sensible, you'd cycle the tank for 4 weeks adding small pinches of flake food (or some other ammonia source) whilst doing the usual 20-25% weekly water changes. By week 3 or 4 you should find ammonia goes up and then down to zero, nitrite goes up and down towards zero, and once both are zero, you'd be ready to add fish to a cycled aquarium! Simple as that.>
before I added 3 Platies to the tank (Monday). For the first 2 days, I did not feed them and also did a 20 % water change once as my testing kit had not arrived yet and I didn't want to take any chances.
<Have already taken a BIG risk adding fish to a non-cycled aquarium.>
It has been 5 days and the kit finally arrived yesterday. I checked the water for Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. The ammonia showed 0ppm, Nitrites - 0ppm and Nitrates- 20ppm. Today, I did the test again for ammonia and nitrites and they still show up 0ppm each. I don't think the tank would be cycled this soon but I'm stumped by the results. I would expect it to show some level of ammonia by now. Am I doing the test wrong, or is this normal?
<Is unusual, and you should have at least some ammonia in there. Do check you're using the kits properly. Dip strips are notoriously unreliable. It is virtually impossible for an aquarium to cycle in 5 days, so it isn't that your aquarium has cycled within the time since you had the Platies. So something is very wrong here. Assume the tank is not cycled, do daily 20% water changes for the next two weeks, and then 20% water changes every second day for weeks 3 and 4. After that point it should be cycled, and you can revert to the normal 20-25% every weekend.>
I tried searching on the internet and your website, but couldn't find an answer to my dilemma :) Any help would be appreciated by me and my Platies :)
I forgot to mention that we have been feeding the fishes for the last 2 days.
Thanks in advance,
Anne.
<Cheers, Neale.>

troubles with my new tank... Learning to read, use WWM, the world   6/28/11
To whom it may concern,
<Rae>
We purchased a new 14 gallon tank and set it up on Thursday, June 2. We did not add any chemicals initially. We only waited until the water was warm enough and then placed 3 danino (sp) fish in it.
<... Dominos? Dascyllus? Not a good choice for this volume and too many. Oh maybe Danios of some sort, freshwater>
All 3 died within 2 days. We then purchased 3 more and lost them over the next 3 days.
<...>
After taking a water sample in, we were told the ammonia levels were too high and to treat the water with "Ammonia Safe" by Tetra.
<No...>
We took a new water sample in 24 hrs later and was told our levels were okay and purchased 3 more daninos. Two days later we purchased 3 (Tetra?) fish.
<... Why not read instead of blindly killing these animals?>
Over the next 4 days we then lost two of the danino and 1 of the Tetra.
During that time I had taken in another water sample b/c the Tetra had developed a white eye and had white around it's mouth. I was again told the ammonia was too high, but I should do nothing about it b/c the water had not cycled and the tank had no nitrates. I was also directed to purchase "Melafix"
<...>
for the bacteria infection the fish had gotten and we treated the water for a few days with that.
<Worthless... had you read on WWM...>
It has now been almost a month. We took another water sample in last week and were told the Ammonia level is 1.0 mglz
<mg/l, aka ppm... deadly toxic>
and the nitrites and nitrates are still 0. The person at PetSmart was at a loss and suggested we contact you b/c he had never seen a tank so long to cycle before. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
Rae
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Some clarification advice needed on fishless tank cycling, please and thank you.   1/2/11
Hello to all at WWM, Happy New Year! My name is Sandy. Let me start by saying, Thank You!, for the fantastic website you all have provided. I often recommend your site to friends and also to the people at my LFS.
<A pleasure, honor and duty to share>
I have a 29 gallon tank (freshwater) plus the Top Fin filter that came with it along with another Top Fin filter for a 60 gallon tank. I plan to get an Oranda goldfish or two when I can get the tank to finish cycling. I realize later down the line I would have to get a larger tank.
<Yes; this is so>
The heater is set to around 74-76 degree's.
<Fine>
It's been about 40 days that I've started cycling the tank. I would use a small pinch of fish flake food each day. I have seen the ammonia start to rise- the highest reading (using API ammonia test kit) was between 2.0 and 4 0. One of my questions is, should I have continued to put the fish food in when I detected ammonia or once ammonia was detected, it was okay to stop?
<Just a small pinch... daily>
Usually if fish are in the tank and ammonia is detected, one would cut back on the amount of food given, correct?
<Yes; if more than 1.0 ppm (just an arbitrary limit) I'd cease feeding altogether>
The ammonia has stayed around 2.0 but I have yet to detect any nitrites or nitrates. I am using Quick Dip strips from Jungle Laboratories for testing. I have a smaller 5 gallon tank that when the filters were due to be changed, I put the used cartridge along the side of one of the filters in the 29 gallon tank with the hopes there was some bacteria that could help with the cycling.
<Good>
That was probably 3 weeks or so ago. I also put a Fluval Filter over the bottom of the intake tube on
the 29 gallon Filter. Last week before Christmas the Fluval Filter must've been getting clogged because the flow of the water was slow. I removed the Fluval Filter and squeezed it into the 29 gallon tanks water. Would this have helped any towards cycling like I thought it might?
<Also helpful>
I have not done any water changes, nor changed filter media. I've just let the tank run, feeding pinches of flake food till the ammonia was detected, then I stopped the food. I test the water about once or twice a week. Have I done everything right?
<Thus far, yes>
Please accept my apologies if I have over-looked these questions being already answered on your website. I do look and read when I have questions, and end up spending hours here reading the excellent information given.
Thank you in advance for any help you provide. Thank you for your time!
Sandy
<Thank you for yours! Just need a bit more time going by Sandy; be patient.
Bob Fenner> 

Procedure to Replace Filter - Preserve Bacteria  5/8/10
Neale,
<Greg,>
Should have asked this before. I'm currently running an HOT and Easy 60 canister filtration systems. My goal is to not run the HOT after the canister comes up to speed with bacteria.
<Indeed.>
Three questions:
1) Any idea how long it takes for the new system to acquire the bacteria if a seasoned filter is running at the same time? Is it faster since bacteria already exists or slower since two systems are now competing?
<I'd give it at least 4 weeks, preferably 6.>
2) How long would to run systems in parallel ?
<See above. In practice it shouldn't take nearly that long, since the bacteria will begin colonising the new filter very quickly, and at a much faster rate then when you're cycling a brand new aquarium. But to avoid
problems, I'd be conservative here.>
3) Should I try to verify the canister has its own bacteria by testing nutters?
<Pointless. The water mixes so fast throughout the tank you won't be able to detect any "local" nitrite or ammonia levels near one particular filter.>
I guess what I'm trying to figure out is does two systems mean slower or faster growth for the new system?
<New filter should mature very fast, likely within a couple of weeks, but I'd double or treble that just to be sure.>
PS: It is chlorine here and I've verified by doing an ammonia test of plain tap water untreated. I am checking with the water board to see what their plans are if any to switch to chloramine. I think that is a wise question
to ask every few months.
<The water chemistry standards should be published on your water supplier's web site; is at least done so here in the old country.>
thanks
<Cheers, Neale.> 

Re: Sick Dwarf Gourami - 03/28/10
Another problem just came to mind... Its my first time cycling an aquarium (I have 2 guppies in a tank I got used, and they said it probably didn`t need to be cycled...probably should have looking back, but they`re OK.
Won`t do that again though.).
<Good.>
I know white clouds and zebra Danios are OK for cycling, but I plan on putting 4 guppies (and maybe my female pearl Betta) in the tank.
<Fancy Guppies are an exceedingly poor choice for immature aquaria.>
It`s only 15 gallons, what should I do? Should I still use the fish mentioned above?
<Cycle without fish where possible. Add a tiny pinch of flake food daily.
Do weekly water changes of 25%. Measure nitrite. This will go up and them come down to zero. When that happens, you're good to go! Should take about 4 weeks from start to finish.>
Could I use a Betta (just a Q, I`m guessing probably not...)?
<No fish is worth adding to an uncycled tank. While some are less likely to be killed quickly than others, it's sort of like choosing whether being eaten by a lion or an alligator is less painful; neither is really ideal!>
What other fish are good? Also, I`m guessing I`ll need to buy another bubble maker as well as a filter, correct?
<No. Bubbles are immaterial. Heaters and filters are essential.>
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick Dwarf Gourami - 03/30/10

Ok, great! I was hoping to not have to buy another bubble maker and more fish. Even better that I can cycle without fish!
Thanks, I should be set to go now! :D
<Very good. So long as you provide a heater and a filter, water circulation should take care of itself without any need for additional aeration.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: African clawed frogs...
Ammonia/ Cycling Update: 1/25/2009

Neale, quick question. I tested a bottle of spring water with my testing kit just to see if it was accurate. Result: 0 ppm ammonia. I tested my tap water without any conditioner. Result: 0.50 ppm ammonia.
<May be detecting chloramine, so while adding a water conditioner that removes ammonia is wise, this may or not be actual free ammonia.>
My tank is currently cycling and tested 1.0 ppm.
<So, the tank is still cycling.>
My question is, once the tank is completely cycled will water changes using tap water and an ammonia removing agent be effective getting to a zero ammonia reading? I ask because when I test my tap after adding conditioner/ remover I am still getting a 0.5-1.0
reading, hopefully the false positive you told me about.
<Yes.>
I am hoping that once I treat the tap and make the water change, my filter will pull out the remaining ammonia.
<Yes.>
I was using a chlorine remover/conditioner and changed to Aqueon Ammonia Neutralizer which supposedly neutralizes chlorine and chloramines as well as ammonia.
<Good.>
Also after some research into our local water chemistry, they do state that my tap is treated with chloramine.
<Ah!>
Thanks, Alex
<Does sound as if you have things in hand. Carry on with what you're doing.
Concentrate rather more on nitrite. Indeed, I often recommend people use a nitrite rather than ammonia test kit. If you ignore the background ammonia in tap water, and simply treat on the assumption ammonia and chloramine are
present, there's nothing to worry about in the vast majority of cases.
Instead, test for nitrite, which isn't normally present in tap water. There will be zero levels until the ammonia is metabolised by the bacteria into nitrite, and after a few weeks the spike of nitrite goes up and then back down to zero. Once you've seen nitrite has dropped to zero, and normally the nitrate level also goes up, your tank is cycled. Cheers, Neale.>  

Nitrogen Cycle & Carbon Filter clarification 1/6/2010
Hello WWM crew,
<Hello,>
Sorry about the length of this email, but I could really use your guys advice. About a week ago my family and I got a 38US gallon tank, stand, AquaClear Power filter 70, a heater, LFS Brand Water conditioner for Chlorine and Chloramine, LFS Brand Multi-Purpose Bio-Support (Claims to have 300 million live bacteria and helps lower ammonia levels).
<Actually, fairly pointless stuff. A mouthful of spit contains millions of bacteria but doesn't do much for aquarium water quality.>
Quite a nice X-mas present =)
<Indeed!>
As grateful as I was, we didn't get a freshwater test kit and my financial situation was a bit tight so I was unable to get one (For a mini test kit, like API Freshwater Master test kit, they are roughly $50 where I live, test strips are close to $20.)
<I see. If you don't have a test kit, then doing things "by the numbers" becomes very important. Go slow, act conservatively, and work to preempt problems before they happen. In other words, cycle the tank without fish if possible, or using the hardiest fish otherwise, and do daily water changes for the first three weeks (or more) to take the edge off any ammonia and nitrite. 10-20% daily should do the trick, plus 50% in the weekend. No, this won't slow down cycling.>
We followed the instructions provided to us from our LFS. We got the tank setup, poured the substrate, setup the filter and heater, filled the tank then turned on the filter. When I was putting the garbage away, my family opened some trial packages that were included, followed the directions and dumped them into the tank There were three trial packages, one was the water conditioner I mentioned earlier, the other was the bio-support and the last was a "bio-clean" (It claims to reduce the time and need for cleaning power filters, gravel and interior aquarium surfaces, it's an organic waste digester)
<All fairly nonsensical stuff. If it worked, we'd all be using it. At best, it does little harm. So while water conditioner should always be added to an aquarium, almost nothing else in terms of additives is useful. Bacteria sold from fridges might be helpful, but anything sold at room temperature almost certainly won't be.>
and I didn't find out about this until the next day when a relative stopped by to give my kids some Zebra Danios to help cycle our fishtank (8 to be exact). I originally wanted to do a "fishless cycle technique" but my family has a history of keeping fish and using the old method of fish cycling.
<Pros and cons to this approach.>
So for the first couple of days, we kept the fish in the tank and followed the directions we found on various websites including yours (minus the testing of the water) for fish cycling. On the third day, in the evening I noticed one of the Danios was deformed it looked like his spine was bent but he was still swimming around and eating, I also noticed one of the other Danios was at the top of the tank gasping for air. I thought the ammonia/nitrite levels might be too high so I did a 20% water change and used the water conditioner. Unfortunately it wasn't enough and the little guy passed away when I was draining the water out of the tank. The next morning I was able to pick up the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. When I got home, I was looking at the tank and noticed the water level was not level by over 1/2 inch on the left and the "deformed Danio" was gasping for air and laying on the substrate. I grabbed my level and checked the tank and stand. The stand was damaged and the store would not take it back (Big chain LFS said it was an x-mas day final sale), so I had to run out and buy a new stand. When I got home the deformed Danio was tumbling in the water so I took him out and placed him in a cup with tank water. I then emptied the tank and kept roughly 70% of the water, put the 6 Danios in the old tank water, and set up the new tank stand. While using the gravel vacuum I noticed there was A LOT of uneaten food in the gravel!
<Implies inadequate filtration. If stuff is being left in the gravel, then the filter lacks "suck". I can't stress too strongly how manufacturers wildly overstate the efficacy of their filters. Aim for at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. For a 38 gallon tank, you're after 4 x 38 = 152 gallons per hour. Ignore comments that suggest a filter is for tanks up to X gallons in size. Look specifically for the gallons/hour rating.>
During the stand change, the deformed Danio died. After that ordeal I was finally able to test the tank water and my tap water. Here are the results
Tank Water
Nitrate = 0ppm
Nitrite = 0ppm
Ammonia = 0.50ppm
pH = 7.6
Tap Water
Nitrate = 0ppm
Nitrite = 0ppm
Ammonia = 0.50ppm
pH = 7.6
I also found out my city's tap water is using Chloramine
<Treat accordingly. Use a water conditioner that treats ammonia as well, to neutralize the ammonia in tap water. Understand that such water conditioners DO NOT treat the ammonia produced by fish, just the stuff in the tap water. They're a one-shot deal in this respect, and not an ongoing benefit.>
The next morning I tested the tank water again.
Nitrate = 0ppm
Nitrite = 0ppm
Ammonia = 0.75ppm
pH = 7.6
<Right, the ammonia is going up because of the fish. This is normal, and you'll see ammonia rise, peak, and fall within a 2-3 week period. Nitrite will do likewise, but a few days, maybe a week, behind the ammonia peak/fall.>
I have a few questions...
<Fire away.>
1) According to your websites information about the Nitrogen cycle, with the ammonia levels slowly rising is the nitrogen cycle starting? My wife and kids are getting overly anxious about getting Angelfish (that's what we're trying to get the tank ready for).
<It all depends on temperature, water chemistry, and other factors. Filter bacteria prefer hard, basic water around 25 degrees C. If the water is cold or soft, the process will be slower. A filter that doesn't have a good circulation will mature slower too, because less oxygen is getting to the media. There's no timetable, but a tropical tank should be cycled within 6 weeks. Don't even think about adding Angels until the tank is 3+ months old. Angels are acutely sensitive to ammonia and nitrite, and are easily killed.>
2) I've read much conflicting reports about carbon filters. Would you recommend that I get rid of my carbon filter in my AquaClear 70 and replace it with something else? I currently have the default sponge filter, carbon filter and a "biomax" filter inside it (White rocks in a mesh bag, sorry don't know what it's called at the moment).
<Carbon is largely redundant.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwfiltrmedart.htm
Read up on what carbon does, and you'll probably come to this conclusion yourself.>
3) Will installing a bubble wall be ok in the tank for my current and future inhabitants?
<Depends on the fish. Angels don't like turbulent water flow, but Danios and Corydoras do.>
Sorry about the lengthy email, but your advice and expertise would greatly be appreciated!
Thank you in advance,
Justin
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

FAST! Cycling, umm, of what?  FW and cleaning tk.s  -- 12/09/09
Hey crew
<Hello.>
I'm going to get a 55 possibly 75 gallon tank for Christmas
<Congratulations!>
and what is the fastest way to cycle it?
<I'm guessing you're going to set it up for freshwater?>
Is there anything that will speed up this process?
<There are ways to "cheat" when it comes to cycling. If you run any other tanks or have any friends that do, you could borrow some "seeded" media from one of those filters after you've got the tank filled, dechlorinated, etc. There are products sold in fish stores which claim to cycle a tank, but beware, because some of these products don't do much at all except put a dent in your wallet! One I have used and can personally vouch for is called "Dr. Tim's One and Only." Basically, what either of these options is going to do is place the nitrifying bacteria directly into your tank, rather than you having to wait for it to grow. Still, though, I would stock carefully at first, which you should always do, anyway. Make sure you've got your test kits handy so that you can monitor the new tank for any possible ammonia or nitrite spikes.>
Also how do you clean a used tank?
<Well, I guess it depends on how dirty it is! A good spray with the hose is usually plenty, but if there's crusty residue on the glass, you can try scrubbing with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water, and then rinsing. Be careful not to use sponges which may come with detergent or anti-mildew agents already inside; a clean washcloth or one of the plastic pot scrubbies from the dollar store is going to be your best bet.
--Melinda>

Re: Neolamprologus splendens breeding ? (Now: cloning filters)  11/13/09
Yes, I understand what you are saying however these Penguin filters are as such where they have two disposable carbon/filter pad slide in baskets and a bio-wheel.
<Ah, these filters can be a pain to clone. But if there are two of these carbon/sponge "modules", then moving one to a new filter of the same type will instantly mature it.>
So I just took the dirty filter out of the already established filter and put it in the brand new filter. Later today I will put the already established filter in this tank as well. So I will be running two of these Penguin 150's in this tank. I see a newly available item for these filters is a re-fillable media basket which I will be ordering today as well as these filters are rather costly and I am into reducing waste and saving some bucks.
<Oh, very definitely! One reason I do not like hang-on-the-back filters is that most of them use these proprietary modules. These lock you into buying new modules every few months. Indeed, carbon needs to be replaced monthly if it's to do any work at all. I'm cheap at heart, so use either box filters or canister filters that I can load with whatever is to hand:
filter floss, gravel, ceramic noodles, etc. I can then shop around for whatever's cheapest.>
Cheers back at 'cha !
Sooz
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Neolamprologus splendens breeding ? (Now: cloning filters)  11/13/09
Howdy yet again, Neale,
<Indeed, howdy.><<Heeeee!>>
I had the thought today of taking one of the used carbon / pad cartridges and try to remove the pad, punch some holes along the perimeter and refill the carbon section then use a cheap but heavy thread to lace a pad back on.
<Might work. You can also buy things called "media bags" into which you can stuff whatever you want, and them ram them into filter compartments. The problem is that filters are designed such that water flows through them in a certain way. With a canister filter, the compartment is basically a cylinder, and you can fill it any old how and it'll work. But with (most, not all) hang-on-the-back filters water is channeled through slots so it passes through these modules in a certain way. So whatever you do, take care not to deform the shape of the module too much, or water will (of course) follow the line of least resistance, bypassing the media.>
It would be a bit time consuming but if I can get this to work then I can just rotate these cartridges. Of course the pads would be rinsed in-between services.
<This is my thing with any system that relies on modules. I don't like being locked into buying them or having to come up with schemes that maximise my expenditure.>
I am having visions of carbon going everywhere.
<Yes.>
I run Emperor 400's on my larger tanks and they have re-fillable cartridges. still a pain to get a decent amount of carbon in them, though.
<Why bother? Carbon largely useless in freshwater tanks.>
On another hand, do you think it would be possible to load the cartridge area of the filter with those re-fillable media bags ? Say, sponge on the bottom, then a bag of carbon and on top, a bag of noodles. Would this be overkill with the bio-wheel?
<Anything that maximizes the area for biological filtration is good.>
Sooz
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fixing an error... Env. dis.... cycling with fishes, FW. Betta  9/1/2009
My dilemma is as follows-
It started when I made a bad error of judgment- cycling with fish. I assumed that I could do semi-frequent water changes to get the cycle going.
Unfortunately, Nixon (my veiltail Betta), developed fin rot.
<Cycling with fish is risky, and does rather assume the tank is [a] large proportional to the fish being kept; [b] receiving 20-25% water changes every day or two; and [c] stocked with hardy fish known to tolerate short-term exposure to ammonia. In very small tanks, the problem is that there's insufficient water to keep the ammonia diluted enough to avoid acute poisoning of your fish. I don't recommend people keep Bettas in tanks less than 5 gallons in size precisely because of this, and putting a heater and a filter in a tank smaller than this doesn't work well at the best of time.>
I had built a baffle on the power filter, keeping the water very still.
However, I suspected the intake might have hurt him.
<Does happen; the best filters for Bettas are either air-powered sponge filters or undergravel filters. Electric filters are best avoided.>
I decided to start fresh - I got a box filter (couldn't find a sponge filter) with a gang valve to minimize air flow.
<Should work fine. Even with medium levels of air flow, the "suck" on these box filters isn't great, and they work nicely even in tanks with fish fry, let alone Bettas.>
It is held down by a slab of slate (again, not ideal, but it was all I could get at this point)
<You do what you have to do. I find a handful of gravel at the bottom of a buoyant box filter works well at weighting it down. Fill the rest of the filter with floss. The gravel supports some biological filtration, so it isn't a waste of space.>
and got some Maracyn 2. I have a second heater for temping his new water in a separate container, complete with second thermometer.
<Not strictly necessary; adding luke warm water from the tap, provided it is dechlorinated, should be fine for any fish tank. Just remember, don't use water from a domestic water softener or untreated water from an RO unit; plain vanilla tap water, even if hard, is fine for Bettas. Leaving water to stand overnight is often a good idea; some water supplies exhibit weird chemistry changes immediately after being drawn. Find out for yourself: do a pH and hardness test on some freshly drawn tap water, and then leave the water sitting for 24 hours and then test it again. If the pH and hardness are the same, you're fine. If not, then leave all your water for 24 hours before use. This isn't an alternative to removing chlorine or copper using water conditioners, by the way.>
Water is from same source always, PH always identical via Wardley 3-in1 7.0.
<The pH is largely irrelevant, and unless you have a specific reason to "fix" the pH at 7, I wouldn't bother. Hardness is much more important when keeping fish generally, but Bettas will adapt just fine to anything in the range 5-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8. In general, water with a pH around 7.5 is the best because this is where biological filtration operates most efficiently. Moderately hard water also tends to regulate its own pH fairly well, and there's really no need to soften water unless you're keeping (or breeding) finicky fish.>
I began Maracyn treatments. He was healing okay until his latest ammonia spike (I was foolish not to expect it so soon). To be safe, I put tetra ammonia detoxifier in his tank, then prepped up a fresh batch of water.
<Ammonia removers remove ammonia from tap water, and have little/no impact on ammonia constantly produced by the fish and organic decay in the filter.
Ammonia is best dealt with via water changes and filtration.>
I also found some tetra Safe Start that wasn't online, it was in a pet shop so I could obtain it.
<Couple tablespoons of gravel from a mature aquarium would work a million times better anyway... even a clump of floating Indian Fern added to the tank would have a dramatically positive impact.>
Today I did one last full 100% water change, thoroughly cleaned everything with leftover changing water (the new stuff), added the SafeStart, and put Nixon back into his new home.
<Why all the cleaning? Look, cycling requires the presence of bacteria.
Limit water changes to 50% at most in emergencies -- where ammonia goes above 0.5 mg/l for example. Otherwise, restrict water changes to 25% every two days for the first 3-4 weeks after setting up a tank. After that point, 20-25% water changes weekly should be ample. Assuming you have at least a 5 gallon tank, a single Betta shouldn't be producing too much mess, and through the cycling process, you'd not be feeding more than one small meal daily, perhaps every other day if you find ammonia keeps creeping above 0.5 mg/l. As for rocks, gravel, etc., leave this as they are. If you must clean the gravel, simply stir and siphon out any detritus. Do nothing more to filter media than rinsing it in buckets of aquarium water or, if necessary, in some freshly drawn, dechlorinated water that's been left to reach water temperature. That's it!>
Through all this time, he has continued swimming normally and eating well (although today is his fasting day). So should I begin a new medication regimen?
<Unless there is actual Finrot, I wouldn't add anything. Fish will regenerate their fins very quickly under good conditions, just as we grow back skin without the need for medications if we cut or graze ourselves.>
Will it affect my seed bacteria?
<Used as described, medications shouldn't harm the filter bacteria.>
Should I do a 50% water change every 2-3 days?
<Sure.>
Any tips?
<See above.>
Thanks, Steve
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: fixing an error 9/1/2009
Dude, thank you so much for the quick reply!
<Happy to help>
I'll try tracking down some Indian fern ASAP!
<It's good stuff. Do read what Bob has to say:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/ceratopteris.htm
I have it in all my tanks.>
I've been reading all sorts of information recently, much of it conflicting advice. Some people advice full weekly water changes, others say never more than 20%.
<Not all tanks work the same way, so there aren't any hard and fast rules.
Moreover, in the past people did very small water changes (typically 25% a month) whereas today aquarists do water changes at least weekly, and in many cases more than 25%, perhaps because their fish are particularly messy. But a 25% water change every week works well, and keeps conditions good enough that if you skip a week because you're on vacation or otherwise busy, it's not big deal.>
I wholly intend to go to the store tomorrow and get a liquid ammonia test kit (after adding the ammonia detox, the strips said the ammonia went from stress to danger).
<Test strips are fine for this sort of thing, so I wouldn't worry about buying a liquid test unless you really want one. If you can detect ammonia, that's bad, and a water change is probably in order. A trace of ammonia is normal through the cycling process, but after that, it's should be 0 pretty much all the time (and so will nitrite be 0 too).>
I'll follow through with the water changes, try to find someone that will spot me a little gravel from a cycled tank.
<Good.>
I've read elsewhere that on a box filter you should change out half the floss.
<You can do this. Indeed, you can change 50% of the media in any mature filter without harm. Some manufacturers will in fact recommend you do this every few months since media that is too clogged isn't especially useful. With sponges, you can rinse them out, but floss can only be cleaned so many times before it all falls apart.>
But you seem to be thorough and knowledgeable, so I'm going to treat it like a sponge.
<Quite so; I find rinsing floss every couple weeks keeps it sufficiently clean I don't need to replace it as often as you might think. A clump of floss in a Betta tank should last a good 6 months if you keep cleaning it gently. Just remember, it's "alive" with bacteria, so don't expose it to anything you wouldn't expose your fish.>
I guess I only have 2 more questions- A) What are signs to look for if I need to redo the Maracyn 2 regimen
<Finrot on Bettas usually looks like patches of white (dead) skin, typically on the fins. On most fish, Finrot often reveals itself by erosion of the fins, as the membrane dies back leaving the filament-like bones, so
there's a ragged or cobweb appearance. But on Bettas this can be tricky to see because they have long and often naturally ragged fins anyway, so you need to be open minded. What you're looking for is signs that the fins are falling apart, dying, hence the name, Finrot. Patches of red or white around the face and mouth sometimes appear, too. Fungus is distinctive: cottony threads, usually on the face or body, sometimes the fins. Both diseases are quite easy to treat if caught early on, and some medications, such as Seachem Paraguard and API Triple Sulfa work well on both. Bettafix (or Melafix) sort of, kinda, helps and can be used to prevent both of them if you think your Betta might develop these problems for some reason, but it
isn't a reliable cure once symptoms set in.>
and B) Does Wet Web Media take donations? Once I get a debit card and/or PayPal account, I'd be happy to toss you folks some loot!
<If you'd like to buy us a beer or two, then by all means do so. I believe there's a Donate button on the front page, here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/
>
Many thanks on behalf of both of us-
Steve and Nixon
<You're most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

My two tanks... FW... cycling...  8/13/09
I've been in process of cycling my 100 gallon tank--with your help, thank you--I'm doing the shrimp deposit suggestion, or I was...
<And...?>
However, this morning may have speeded up the process or derailed it entirely--and I need to know which. I woke up to notice the level in my 55 gallon tank had gone down a few inches in the night.
<A leaky tank?>
Apparently the filter (sponge) that had been working just fine for almost a year was dribbling water for awhile--the sponge was over the level of the canister(?)
<I see.>
So, I took one of the new filters for the 100 gallon tank and moved it to the 55 and moved the possessed filter to the 100 gallon tank to see if I could "fix" the problem. Well, part of the fix involved more water on the floor and my taking the sponge out of the filter, and dropping it in the tank. All of this before my first cup of coffee too.
<Oh boy, been there, done that. I'm a member of the "arrgh, aquarium suddenly exploded at 3 AM club".>
Oh and I added more water--5 gallons-- to the 55 gallon. I was getting ready to do a water change anyway!
<...>
So I have an established tank with a new filter, and an un-established tank with grody but probably good bacteria floating around in it....and a sponge filter that wont stay down.
<Keep all the fish in the one, established tank. Float the sponge from the out-of-commission filter in the established tank; it'll be fine, and likely happily colonised by good bacteria. Buy a new tank as and when, install filter, check it isn't leaking, and add the fish.>
Help, please... Normally I would panic first and ask questions later, but my brain told me that you could help.
<Hope this helps.>
Kimmie
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fishless Cycling Question 6/18/09
Like everyone else, I just wanted to say thank you for this site, it is incredibly informative.
<Thanks.>
I have young children who want a fish tank. Recognizing that they ultimately will not keep them alive, I have made the decision to take primary responsibility for the tank. I'm glad I did, I'm really enjoying reading about it, and looking forward to it as my hobby (If I wasn't willing to make it my hobby, and actually enjoy it, I would just tell the kids no.)
<Wise.>
I have also made the decision to do this properly, at least to the best of my abilities. I have purchased a 55 gallon tank with stand, gravel, fake plants, nice ornamental piece of wood (fake), heater and an Eheim Ecco 2236. I have set up tank. Looks great, everything working fine, with the exception of getting the tank cycled.
<The easiest approach is to just add a pinch of flake every couple of days, just as if there were fish in the tank. Do a water change of 25% in the weekend. What you should find is ammonia goes up, then nitrite, but by 2-3 weeks, you should have zero ammonia and steadily dropping nitrite. By the time they're both zero, you're good to go; just add some hardy fish for while if you want to minimise problems: Zebra Danios and Peppered Corydoras are both good choices. Avoid anything delicate, like tetras, loaches or Angelfish.>
A few general questions that I can't find on site:
1. Is store bought small gravel, which is pretty small, but not necessarily round, appropriate for loaches and Corys?
<Depends on the loaches really: big loach species like Clowns will be fine with smooth gravel, but the smaller loaches or those species that like to dig themselves in, like Horseface Loaches, are invariably better kept with smooth (not sharp!) silica sand, which you can get from any garden centre, even if your pet store doesn't carry it.>
2. Does ph fluctuate during cycling process?
<It may well do, but this depends a lot on your carbonate hardness level.
If you have "liquid rock" with a high carbonate hardness out of the tap, pH fluctuations will be minimal. If you have soft water though, a variety of processes can mean pH changes between water changes, cycling or otherwise.>
My main questions are about cycling. I really wanted to do a fishless cycling with ammonia. I absolutely cannot, and I have checked everywhere, find plain, unscented ammonia.
<Use flake. It makes no odds to the bacteria whether the ammonia comes from a bottle of ammonia, from fish, or from rotting flake that got sucked into the filter. It's all NH3.>
Nor can I find Bio-Spira. I would do fish food, but it seems like it would require a LOT of food to get a 55 gallon tank up to 4 ppm of ammonia.
<You don't need 4 ppm ammonia, because rotting fish food is producing small amounts of ammonia over a long period, rather than one big dollop of ammonia added once per day. If you think about this logically: filter bacteria numbers are proportional to the amount of ammonia in the system; whether that comes from 5 grammes of rotting fish flake or 5 grammes of fish flake that went through however many fish that would support, it makes no difference at all.>
Any suggestions?
If I can't find ammonia, could I do a cycle with 5-6 zebra Danios?
<You can, but I wouldn't; I'd cycle with flake for at least the first couple weeks so you get through the ammonia spike; it's true Danios will put up with a lot, but it's still nice to at least get the tank through the harsh ammonia spike phase before adding any livestock. Use this time to install live plants; it makes all the difference in the world to how quickly the tank cycles because live plants bring lots of bacteria with them.>
My plan would be to check ammonia daily and nitrites daily, do water changes, and use cycle to bind the ammonia and nitrites while building up bacteria. If I proceed with this route, how high should I let ammonia and nitrite levels get before I do a water change?
Thanks!
Rich
<Cheers, Neale.>
re: Fishless Cycling Question
Awesome, you totally answered my question. I really appreciate. Looking forward to perusing your site even more!
Rich
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>

Establishing an optimum bacterial population -- 4/17/09
Dear Crew
<Hello,>
I have a question about establishing a bacterial culture in an aquarium.
<Not an issue; the bacterial population will expand and contract to the biomass of fish in the tank. The only limiting factors are oxygen availability and physical space, the two issues that determine whether a filter is adequate for the task. More flow = more oxygen, and more media = more physical space.>
Long, long ago (in the 1970s) I was taught that an aquarium performs best if it goes through a crisis, in the sense that it undergoes a large bioload early in its life.
<Yes and no; the filter bacteria population grows precisely at the rate determined by the oxygen availability, the physical space for them to inhabit, the availability of ammonia/nitrite, the temperature, and the pH. If you have a lot of ammonia early on, yes, the bacterial population can grow rapidly compared to an otherwise identical tank with less ammonia. But unless that high ammonia concentration is maintained, the population will quickly die back to a small population maintained with less ammonia. They don't "hibernate" in any meaningful sense waiting for ammonia spikes weeks or months apart. Hence, you need to cycle a filter with an ammonia source equivalent to the biomass of the fish being added, and when you do add further fish on top of that amount, you add them in small, spaced apart batches so the bacteria population can multiply upwards.>
To achieve this, when setting up a new aquarium I would get the filters running, add some bacteria (usually sand from an established tank), and throw in a few dead shrimps or a piece of fish fillet.
<As good a way as any.>
There would be no inhabitants in the tank except the bacteria. Over the ensuing weeks, the meat would rot, the tank would stink, and when the cycling process was finished, I'd do a large water change.
<Yep.>
The thinking behind this was that if you caused a crisis like this, with a massive ammonia spike early in the piece, you would establish colonies of bacteria in the filtering system that were at the maximum potential that could be achieved.
<Sort of; what you're doing is creating a source of ammonia equivalent to however much food you'd add if there was a fish in that tank. It doesn't matter to the bacteria whether the ammonia comes directly from a shrimp rotting on the sand or else a shrimp that passed through the gut of a fish. Ammonia is ammonia is ammonia. But, here's the thing: the art is in waiting for the ammonia to drop to a safe level, and then adding a fish or two to keep "topping up" that ammonia for those bacteria in the filter. Consider an extreme example: say you waited three months. The ammonia produced by the shrimp will have been all used up by then, and the bacteria in the filter would have died back to some minimal value. Likely not zero, because there'd be algae and other micro-organisms in the aquarium, so there'd be some small amount of ammonia, but nothing like as much as if there'd been a school of Guppies.>
The idea was that this optimum population of bacteria would occupy all the available sites in the system, and they would work at nitrification as need arose.
<There's no "optimum" level you can build into a system; the bacteria numbers will be limited by whatever is in least supply. This is called the Law of Limiting Factors and affects numerous biological systems. If ammonia is at a low level because a fish tank is empty, it doesn't matter how big the filter is, or how optimal the pH, or how perfect the temperature -- the bacteria population will be small.>
In other words, if you had a small bioload in the tank, the bacteria numbers would remain constant but they would have to work less.
<No. Allowing for a certain lag for the bacteria to die back, the population would be exactly proportional to whatever is in least supply.>
If you gradually increased the bioload to the maximum appropriate for the size of the tank, the bacteria would adjust their metabolism and work harder to cause nitrification. It was thought that the population of bacteria would remain constant, with fluctuations in activity depending on the bioload.
<Not sure they adjust their metabolism; rather, you have X bacteria, or 10X, or a 100X bacteria, depending on how much of whatever limiting factor is available.>
The concurrent idea was that if you didn't cause a big crisis, but cycled the tank by only placing in it a few hardy fish, the bacterial population would establish only to meet that bioload, and the colonies in the filters would not be as dense as it would have been if you'd gone the 'full crisis' way.
<Yes, when you cycle with, say, 4 Guppies, you get sufficient bacteria in the filter to consume the ammonia produced by 4 Guppies; no more and no less.>
In other words, there would be less bacteria by using the slow method.
<No, you get precisely the same. All depends on the limiting factor.>
It was thought that this would constitute the bacterial population for the life of the aquarium and that the numbers of bacteria would not increase when you increased the bioload -- the bacteria would simply work harder to handle nitrification, and the system would never be as capable of handling a large bioload or a crisis in the way that a 'full crisis' system would..
<No; what limits the bacteria population isn't how you created the tank, but what the conditions are at the moment. Double the amount of ammonia in any aquarium and the bacterial population will (within a certain period of time) double as well (assuming other factors, such as oxygen or physical space, aren't limiting).
Therefore, it was taken for granted that, if you wanted an aquarium to have its full potential for nitrification, the 'full crisis' method was the way to go.
<No.>
Now, this may be 'old' thinking, and I'd be glad if you would comment on what current thinking is. I'm setting up a large freshwater system that will eventually be heavily stocked, and I'm debating whether to go with the 'slow' method with a few fish or to use the fishless ammonia method to cause an initial spike in the hope that it will give me better long-term results. Is there an advantage of one method over the other?
<Absolutely no advantage to creating a "crisis" if you don't follow it up with an equal amount of ammonia day-in, day-out. If you add some shrimp and the ammonia concentration goes to, let's say, 10 mg/l, but then two weeks later has dropped to 1 mg/l, then the number of filter bacteria in that aquarium will be precisely the same as an aquarium given 1 mg/l every single day. Biological systems are ALWAYS limited by whatever is in least supply at the time, and NEVER expand to the potential of what might have been there in the past or might happen again in the future.>
I'm sorry this is so wordy.
Les (Australia)
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Establishing an optimum bacterial population  4/18/09
Neale, that helps more than you can imagine. Many thanks for this most comprehensive collection of information. That has settled years of wondering for me. At last I can approach what I'm doing in an informed way.
Best regards to you.
Les
<G'day Les. Happy to have helped. Good luck cycling your new tanks, however you choose to do it! Cheers, Neale.>

Organically cycled aquarium 4/15/2009
Great website! I wish I had found it earlier.
<Thanks!>
I made the mistake of buying a goldfish for a fancy bowl I found. After 3 days of torture, I rushed out and bought an eclipse hex 5 gal. tank. I now know, I should have purchased a larger tank but honestly this is the
largest I have room for. He lasted 8 days.
<Par for the course, I'm afraid. Goldfish need big tanks; they are, after all, pond fish that easily reach 20 cm/8 inches in length and commonly 50% more than that. So unless you have a 20 gallon tank to start with, and are prepared to get at 30 gallon tank at some point, I'd skip Goldfish.>
After extensive reading on your site and others, I am starting over. I want to do fishless cycling using fish food flakes.
<Fine. A bit messy, but this works! Add a tiny pinch of flake every day, just as if there was a fish there. The food will rot, and thereby release ammonia. After about three weeks, your aquarium should be good to go; use a nitrite test kit to check: for the first couple days you'll detect zero nitrite, and then nitrite will go up, then a week or so later come down, and eventually settle at zero again. Since nitrite is deadly to fish, we
don't add them until you're detecting zero nitrite again.>
I added stress coat water conditioner per directions and now I'm thinking I should not have, since it removes ammonia.
<It removes ammonia *from the tap water*. It does nothing at all against ammonia *produced* in the aquarium by fish, bacteria or whatever.>
Should I dump this and use tap water?
<No. You should indeed add dechlorinator any time you add water to the aquarium. Period.>
Also, I was thinking of getting a beta, but since the tank is taller then wide and betas are top dwellers
<It's a Betta by the way. (I think Americans call them Betas because of the way they pronounce Betta, which is actually Bettah in Malay or whatever, and sounds like "Better".) Anyway, a Betta is a good choice for this tank.>
I was thinking I could get 5 White Cloud Mountain minnows?
<Nope. This tank will be too small for them. Do see here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
There's also the risk they'll nip the Betta.>
Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks, Cindy
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: organically cycled aquarium
Thanks Neale for the useful information. I didn't want to have both a Betta and the minnows, either/or. I know White Cloud Mountain minnows are schooling fish. Would they be happy in my 5 gal. in a group of 3 or 4 if 5 is too many?
<They would not be happy in a 5 gallon tank, period. You need to keep them in groups of at least six, and they need a tank length of some 60 cm (about 2 feet) to burn off all their energy. In anything smaller, it's just cruel.
Don't do it to them. Your idea of a Betta, perhaps with some Cherry Shrimps for variety, would work well. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: organically cycled aquarium  4-16-09
Thanks Neale, Life is to short...we can't have unhappy fish...so 1 Betta and some cherry shrimp it is!
<Good move.>
Can't wait for my tank to cycle. I'm only into day 2 of my fishless "flake" cycle but I found a store that has clear ammonia, so I'm going to start using that per instructions on this website.
<Very good; but I'd recommend still adding a little flake. Why? Because ammonia only feeds the nitrifying bacteria. It doesn't feed what we call heterotrophic bacteria, the bacteria that turn uneaten food and fish faeces into ammonia and other chemicals. Essentially they're bacteria that "compost" the solid wastes in the aquarium. Flake will feed this important bacteria, killing two birds with one stone. You'll only need a tiny pinch, maybe once every 2-3 days, but it's still worth doing.>
I have test strips for nitrate & nitrite, but my ammonia tester is a sensor (ammonia alert by Seachem). The directions are as follows: "As free ammonia, the ALERT color corresponds to about 0.05 mg/L, ALARM to about 0.2
mg/L, and TOXIC to about 0.5 mg/L.
<Do treat these devices with a certain amount of skepticism; they're good for alerting your to a crisis, but your test kit will give more accurate results.>
"How does that relate to your instructions of "add enough ammonia to the tank ('baby' increments) to bring the ammonia level up to where the tank water reads about 5 ppm when tested." Is 0.5mg/L the same as 5 ppm?
<No; 5 mg/l is roughly 5 ppm. One advantage to adding fish flake rather than ammonia is there's no need to calculate anything! Here's what I'd do with the ammonia. Add a few drops of ammonia. Wait. See if the Alert thing changes colour. If not, add some more drops. Repeat, counting up all the drops you're adding until it gets to the "Danger" setting. Now test the water with your test kit. With luck, it'll be around the 0.5 mg/l the Alert thing says. If it is, you want to now add more drops up to about 8-10 times the number you added to get to 0.5 mg/l (e.g., if you added 10 drops, add 70-90 more). You might actually find this easier using a teaspoon measurer, starting off with 1/4 teaspoon and seeing how many of those you needed to
get to the 4-5 mg/l. Either way, make a note of the number of drops (or teaspoons) needed, and then add the same amount each day. Hopefully your tank will cycle quickly, since you've already started.>
Thanks again for all you help-Cindy
<Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Organically cycled aquarium
Neale, Thanks for being there,
<Happy to help,>
I didn't mention before - when I bought the ammonia tester I had LFS test everything before I started. Everything was 0 but PH was high 7.8. So they sold me "neutral regulator" to bring it down to 7.0
<Oh dear. While the *idea* of having the "right" pH sounds good, it's actually a bad idea to mess about with the pH. Put simply, if you aren't [a] reducing carbonate hardness and [b] somehow buffering the reduced pH, changing pH tends to create unstable conditions. Your local fish shop is doubtless happy to sell you these potions, since they're expensive and need to be used every time you do a water change. But for the average aquarist, they're totally useless and indeed potentially dangerous.>
Now that I'm reading the bottle it says "removes chlorine, chloramine & ammonia" I tested the ammonia level and it's off the chart- at least 8ppm.
<Water conditioner removes small amounts of ammonia from tap water. At most, this will be 0.5 mg/l, since that's the maximum safe amount for humans to drink (at least, under UK law). Water conditioner has no impact at all on the constant production of ammonia from fish, or for that matter large amounts of ammonia added day after day during the cycling process.>
I did a 20 % water change (without sucking the gravel) and tested again- it's still at least 8ppm.
<Will drop down eventually. Don't add any more ammonia until it's down to about 0.5-1 mg/l. Once that happens, add just a little ammonia, or better still, a pinch of flake every couple days. Siphon out uneaten flake during your weekly water changes, but otherwise, don't worry too much about how messy it might look.>
I have lowered the temp back to 78. I can't adjust the air flow . It's an Eclipse hex 5 with the pump and filtration built into the hood. Also, the filter is one of those cartridges with floss and carbon built in and a bio wheel (nothing about zeolite). All of this for one happy Betta?
<Should be fine. It *will* cycle, but sometimes things take longer than you'd hope. Put it this way: the filter wouldn't have cycled any faster with the fish, and your new Betta would be experiencing poor water quality.  Instead of being unhappy about some ammonia, you'd be unhappy about a sick fish!>
I went to LFS yesterday, such sad faces in little jars, even picked one out but knew I couldn't bring him home yet. I'm starting to get very frustrated. Should I just start over?
<No. Just wait a while.>
Thanks, Cindy
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: organically cycled aquarium  04/23/09
Hello Neale,
I bought a real ammonia tester and started my ammonia/flake cycle on the 4-17. Added 1/2 teaspoon ammonia to my 5 gallon tank, which brought the test up to 5ppm and have been adding the same for six days now with flake every other day.
<Good.>
On the 7th day I still have 0 nitrites. I raised the temp up to 80 degrees.
<And still 5 ppm ammonia?>
Is there anything else I can do? I thought I would have some results by now.
<You should do. Lower the temperature a little, but increase the oxygenation of the tank, e.g., by adjusting the flow from the filter. Check the pH; the bacteria involved prefer pH 7.5-8.5. It's obvious, but I'll
mention it: make sure there's no zeolite ("ammonia remover") in the filter.>
Hubby thinks I'm bit loopy feeding an empty tank. -Thanks, Cindy
<Would forget about adding more ammonia for now, but just add pinches of flake every other day. Do this for a week, and then get back to me if the cycle *still* hasn't started. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: organically cycled aquarium      5/15/09
Hello Neale,
<Cindy,>
I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of the person behind the curtain (or firewall as it is) but finally (30 days) my ammonia levels have dropped to 0.5mg/l and I am detecting Nitrites 10 & Nitrates 160!
<Hurrah!>
I'm going to continue to cycle using only flake as you suggested. About how long before my invisible fish Casper can have a Betta friend?
<Once the nitrite drops below 0.5, you should be pretty well home free. Do make sure you aren't adding too much "bacteria food" -- the flake (or liquid ammonia) offered bacteria during the cycling phase must be proportional to [a] the size of the tank and [b] the size of the filter.
This latter is important: if the filter has relatively little space of the bacteria, there will always be a "backlog" of ammonia and nitrite, because the population of bacteria can't process all the ammonia and nitrite present in the water. This, in a nutshell, is what we'd consider a filter too small for a given aquarium. There are other factors that affect how rapidly bacteria process waste: temperature (middling, around 25 C is best); hardness (the harder the better); pH (7.5-8.5 is the best); and oxygen (the more, the better!).>
I am scheduled for a partial water change in 2 days. Should I continue doing this?
<It's always good to stick with a regular once-weekly water change.>
Also, when cycle is completed and I'm ready for fish should I change the filter right away or wait?
<Fish go in the day you stop adding ammonia (or feeding your invisible fish). If you don't do add any fish, the bacteria will starve through lack of "food", i.e., ammonia.>
Thanks great and powerful crew!
Cindy
<You're most welcome! Neale.>

Re: Organically cycled aquarium 05/27/09
Help Neale,
After scheduled water change, ammonia went in 1 day from 0.5 to zero, so I started to add 1/4 tea of ammonia per day or so to keep levels around 1.0mg/l - yesterday they were 2.0, today 1.0. It's been 12 days and my nitrites 10 & nitrates 200 have not dropped. Lowered the temp down to 77 as you suggested and there is really nothing else I can change.
<Would actually assume your tank is cycled, but you're simply adding more ammonia than the system (i.e., the filter) can process in "real time". Cut down to a few drops of ammonia, so that maximum level after adding ammonia is 0.25 mg/l. If that goes down to zero within, say, six hours, I'd assume the filter is "done" and start adding -- slowly -- your fish. Hardy fish would be ideal: Danios or Bronze Corydoras for example are tolerant and get along with most fish you're likely to add down the line.>
After almost 6 weeks into this my husband is no longer amused with our invisible fish. I have been given the order of "get a fish or get rid of it" The only slight sign I have of things moving along is the test strip is not turning dark pink quite as fast as it was, but still is off the chart after 60 seconds. I have not changed the filter all this time. Should I?  What else can I do? More water changes? If I can't put a fish in there soon I fear I never will. Please advise.
Thanks -Cindy
<The big problem with fishless-cycling is that it doesn't always work; or at least, adding raw ammonia doesn't always work. I prefer feeding flake food rather than ammonia, because this speeds both the nitrifying bacteria that process ammonia/nitrite as well as the critically important  heterotrophic bacteria that break down solid wastes and convert protein into ammonia. It's "old school", but works. Anyway, that your filter is processing at least some ammonia suggests there's something going on in the filter, so would assume the tank is basically cycled, and would act accordingly. Add a few fish, say half a dozen Danios, and then feed them lightly while checking nitrite levels every couple of days for the first week. If all goes well, you can then add more fish (in small batches) every couple of weeks, but do allow a good couple to three months before adding anything delicate, such as Angelfish or Fancy Guppies. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: organically cycled aquarium   06/04/09
Hello Neale,
Update: My tank has finally cycled!
<Hurrah!>
Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, & Nitrates 20. My Betta is so happy in his new home, an eclipse hex 5 tank. It's only been 4 days, but he appears very content.
He's very curious & brave, always coming up front when you're near and calmly following your finger anywhere. He's not affected by my dogs' barking or love birds' squawking. I can't decide to name him Curious George or William Wallace. He was smaller then the others, but is eating fine. I'm guessing he's younger and will grow nicely.
<Indeed.>
I purchased him at the specialty fish store (only fish-more expensive then PM) because the Bettas looked healthier.
<Wise... for a buck or two, it makes sense to shop wisely.>
I also wanted to get some cherry shrimp but they were out. They tried to sell me every and any other kind of fish including tiger barbs. I explained it was only a 5 gallon tank and they said it would be fine.
<Eek!>
Well, thanks to you and this awesome website I knew better and walked away with just my Betta. Someone posted they had a 4 or 5 year old Betta in a 5 gallon with a Ramshorn & a dwarf frog. I do love frogs. Is that an option?
<Sure; actually works quite well, with or without some cherry shrimps too, as you prefer. The main thing with Dwarf Frogs is that they are free to eat the frozen bloodworms and such they enjoy.>
Thanks again Neale-I'm happy and so is my Betta!
Cheers!
<Good luck, Neale.>

Setting Up a New Tank with Old Filter Media 1/25/09 Hi, I'm new to this site and I really do love it. < Thanks for the kind words.> It is so addicting to explore it. However, I do have a question that I hope was not answered before. 1) I just set up a new tank and it is being cycled. How long will it take for the tank to start fogging up? < The fogging you are asking about is the ammonia developing in the tank. This depends on how many fish are in the tank, how much food, water temp etc....I would recommend getting some water quality test kits for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to get a handle on what is going on and rely less on the "fogging" factor. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. If you see any readings then you may need a bacterial additive like Dr. Tim's One and Only. The nitrates can go up to 20 ppm or higher depending on the fish you have selected. You may already be ok with the old filter media and the tank may not fog up.> I bought a 45 gallon square tank at a reasonable price. I also added filter media from another established tank to help speed up the process. It has been set up for about 3 days now. 2) What do you recommend I put in there? My tap water is soft and very acidic. I believe it is 6.2-6.5. I have kept fishes before and I decided to give it another try. Thanks. < You have pretty good water for just about anything. Try South American or West African fish that naturally come from waters similar to yours. Rift lake cichlids require hard alkaline water. The addition of buffers and salts can bring the water up to levels required by these fish. I would caution you on testing the alkalinity of your water. Very soft water may not have any buffering capacity and can become very acidic and "crash". Start out by researching fish you like for environmental compatibility, adult size and temperament.-Chuck>

Re: cycle and fish Setting Up a New tank With Old Filter Media II 1/25/09 Thanks so much for your advice(Chuck and Neale) I accidentally sent the message twice and got two replies. When cycling the tank, does the tank need an ammonia fog and does an ammonia fog always occur when cycling the tank? <The bacteria from the established tank filter media may already have the bacteria needed to transform the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. Get the nitrate test kit to find out.> This is because I have not experienced one yet. Also, will live plants speed up the nitrogen cycle, slow down the nitrogen cycle, or not have any affect? Thanks so much. < Live plants utilize nitrogenous wastes in all forms. The will use ammonia, nitrite and nitrate under sufficient lighting. This leaves less nitrogenous wastes available for the bacteria to develop. It probably slows it down but not by much.-Chuck

Second tank- cycle and stocking questions, 10 gal. FW   12/26/08 Hi, crew! Happy Holidays! <And a festive hello to you, too.> I'm working on plans to set my 10 gallon freshwater aquarium back up and I'm looking for a few quick answers or thoughts. First, my other tank is slightly brackish (for livebearers). What is the best way to acclimate used filter media from that tank for the new tank? <Invariably, the best approach is to "clone" the filter. All filters can lose up to 50% of their biological media without water quality drops. Indeed, many filter manufacturers suggest you replace this much biological filter media every few months to compensate for the fact biological media becomes clogged with silt over time, and however well you rinse it, it never really gets clean, and so doesn't work as well as it did when fresh. So, if you transplant 50% of the biological media from a mature filter to a new filter, you can instantly mature the new filter, assuming the water chemistry and temperature differences are minimal.> Also, I'm struggling to actually choose what I want for livestock. So many choices! <Actually, not that many choices for a 10 gallon system. Things like male Guppies for example shouldn't be kept in tanks this small because of their tendency to be bullying towards one another and aggressive towards the females (being a female Guppy in a 10 gallon tank alongside some male Guppies has got to be a form of torture!). Platies and Swordtails, medium to large Corydoras, most Barbs, most tetras and virtually all cichlids and gouramis would be far too large for a 10 gallon tank. Danios are far too hyperactive for a 10 gallon system. Yes, you could "fit" them in, but no, they wouldn't be happy, and sometimes frustrated Danios become nippy and bullying. When it comes to stocking 10 gallon tanks, the key things are that the fish are small (ideally sub-5 cm in length) and relatively inactive. Good choices including Kuhli loaches, Neons, Cardinals, small gobies such as Peacock Gudgeon, and the "dwarf" Corydoras such as Corydoras hastatus. Do see here for some thoughts: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm I also have a "freshwater reef tank" in a 30 litre system that might be interesting to you: http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/Projects/freshwaterreef.html The idea is that invertebrates, rather than fish, become the focus.> The only solid plans are low tech, pretty heavily planted with some slate caves. I think I'd like cherry shrimp but only if I can have a few fish too. <Choose the fish carefully; things like Neons, Whiptail cats, Aspidoras catfish, and small gobies and halfbeaks appear to be fine with my Cherry Shrimps.> I'm okay with fish eating the baby shrimp as the local stores don't like to take extras of stock they don't normally carry. I'll have to order the shrimp via internet if I want them. I just want the adults to be safe. Could I have cherry or gold barbs with the shrimp? <Cherry barbs would be fine in a 10 gallon system and shouldn't do any harm to Cherry Shrimps. "Gold Barb" seems to be a name used for at least three different species. Puntius sachsii and Puntius semifasciolatus would be too large, though Puntius gelius would be okay, with the proviso it (like the Cherry Shrimps) actually prefers subtropical not tropical conditions. Puntius gelius is highly attractive though, and works great in quiet tanks, even though it is a bit delicate.> Or what about a honey Gourami, Betta, or flag fish? <Bettas mix fine with Cherry shrimps, but shouldn't be mixed with anything else except perhaps dwarf Corydoras species and Kuhli loaches. Certainly not with anything barb- or tetra-like for fear of nipping or bullying. Likewise, mixing with other labyrinth fish or dwarf cichlids is usually a disaster. Colisa chuna is a difficult species in some ways, but if you can get quality stock and are able to provide excellent water quality, it is viable in 10 gallons. Florida flagfish would also be good in a 10 gallon tank, but they're subtropical fish, and need lots and lots of algae to colour up properly. They're often kept poorly, hence few people have seen their naturally stunning colours. In a coolish system with Cherry Shrimps and perhaps White Cloud Mountain minnows, they'd be great.> If these aren't good choices, could you give me some ideas? I have to drive an hour to get to a store with decent plants anyway, I can check what that better store has available and do research before a return trip for the fish. My tap water is pH 7.5 and somewhat hard. No livebearers please, I have plenty. :) <Most tropical fish will be fine in moderately hard, basic water. Do always remember: in freshwater fishkeeping, the precise pH doesn't matter, pH stability does; so focus on understanding your local water hardness.> Also, what should I add first, shrimp or fish? Should I get the shrimp first so they can find all the hiding places? <Makes no odds really, but I prefer to add the shrimps and let them settle in for a few weeks. They keep the filter healthy without disturbing the plants, and also help to control initial algae blooms. Once I'm comfortable the filter is working 100% and the shrimps have adjusted to the tank, then I'd start adding any new fish.> Thanks for any advice! Angela <Cheers, Neale.>

New 55-gallon tank. Fish nipping at rocks/plants after eating.  12/5/08 Greetings, <Hello,> I started my freshwater tank with a live cycle exactly 1 week ago. I bought the tank setup from a friend of mine who'd upgraded. When I bought the tank it had been running for about 2 months. However, when I brought it home, we drained all but about 1 inch of water from the tank. The substrate and piece of driftwood were left in the tank from the previous setup. The tank sat idle for about 3 days in this state at my house without the filter running, thereby killing all beneficial bacteria, if I understand correctly. I filled the tank and ran the filter and the heater for nearly 2 weeks before I had the time to add my first fish. <The bacteria may well be fine. So long as they're wet, and there's some oxygen in that water, at least some bacteria will survive.> It is a 55-gallon tank with a Whisper EX-70 filtration system. My substrate consists of rocks about the diameter of a U.S. Quarter. <Your substrate is rather coarse, so don't keep anything that lives on the bottom, especially not species with whiskers that forage for food, such as Corydoras.> I am currently in the process of doing a live cycle on the tank. I have 4 small Red Wag Platys, 3 small Serpae Tetras, and 6 small Green Tiger Barbs. Everyone seems to get along with each other pretty well, as the barbs have plenty of friends to play around with. <Tiger barbs and Serpae tetras are both INFAMOUS fin-nippers, and I wouldn't let them anywhere near something as placid as Platies. Moreover, Serpae tetras have a "gang" mentality, and in groups of less than six specimens will bully one another as well as other fish.> However, I have two issues. First, the largest of the Red Wag Platys seems to spend a lot of time at the surface (gasping for air, it seems), but only after eating. It seems like high ammonia levels to me based off of research. I am planning on taking my water in to get tested on Saturday, so hopefully conditions don't degrade to an unsafe level before then. I am thinking about cutting back on the feedings for a day. <Not sure how you "research" high ammonia levels -- use an ammonia or nitrite test kit, and then you'll know for certain!> Second, it seems as though ALL of the fish like to spend about 5-10 minutes nipping or pecking at the rocks and fake plants in the tank after eating. What are they doing? Is this a problem? <No idea; if the water quality is good, and the fish otherwise healthy, wouldn't worry.> Thanks for your help. I tried to search but couldn't find what I was looking for regarding the second issue. Peter <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Follow up question... wood use, FW... cycling...   9/29/08
Hi Neale and crew,
Below you said I should add some plants to the tank, and suggested plants on "bogwood". I've got a couple of questions about this.
1) Is bogwood the same as driftwood?
<If it's sold in an aquarium shop, yes.>
2) I've read that driftwood will inevitably lower the pH in my tank, and I don't really want it any lower. It's around 7.6. Is it really inevitable?
I've got Anubias planted on driftwood coming today.
<Depends on the carbonate hardness (measured with your KH test kit). In hard water, if you do regular 25-50% water changes, you're unlikely to experience any serious pH changes with moderate amounts of bogwood. Stick a tonne of the stuff in a soft water aquarium, and things do need to be watched a bit more closely.>
3) In addition to the Anubias, I have some Limnobium coming and plan to put both plants in my 55g when they get here. My tank is trying desperately to cycle. There is no livestock in it at the moment, although there has been, I just moved them due to not being able to keep ammonia levels in check. So right now my readings are. NH3/4+ = 1.0, NO2 = .50, and NO3 = 5.00. Is it ok to add the plants at this point? Or are ammonia levels too high?
<It's fine; in fact the plants will use the ammonia as fertiliser.>
4) I know that adding the plants will have an effect on the cycle. I'm hoping that NH3 at least will go down, but realistically what should I expect as far as water chemistry at this point? Will the tank go into a "silent cycle"?
<It's cycle just fine.>
5) Since I removed the livestock, I've been adding two pinches of flake food daily as an ammonia source. Once I add the plants should I continue to do this?
<Yes, right up to the point the ammonia and nitrite remain zero.>
Thanks for the help.
Laura
<I hope his helps, Neale.>

I'm baaaack.. with more questions about cycling my tank...  9/18/09
Hello again,
<Hail fellow well met.>
I've been consulting with Dr. Monks, (Neale?), about a variety of topics related to seven African Clawed Frog (ACF) tadpoles I'm raising. Everything's going fine with the tadpoles. This follow up question is regarding the cycling of my 55g tank to get it ready for them. Originally I was cycling using raw shrimp. This was a VERY smelly project, so we took Neale's suggestion, removed the dead shrimp, did a HUGE water change, and added 4 Mystery Snails. That was on Sunday (9/14). We test the ammonia level, daily, with a liquid kit. Neale's advice was that we take care to keep the level under 1ppm, and so far we're at around .5ppm. So, I guess that's good, right?
<Just fine.>
I'm wondering though when we should expect to see nitrites start to rise?
<Should be doing so even now...>
I know they're a very slow growing bacteria. I was under the (probably misguided) impression that there had to be some sort of huge "spike" in the ammonia levels in order for the bacteria to start colonizing. Is this not so?
<Indeed it is not so; even if there's a modest rise in ammonia, the nitrite-producing bacteria will be happily multiplying away. In a tropical tank, the whole process should be done within 4-8 weeks, usually around 6 weeks.>
Also, I just sort of assumed that I should leave tank vacuuming and water changes until the ammonia gets close to 1 ppm. It just sort of seems like I'll be messing up the cycle otherwise. Is this right?
<Do normal 10-25% weekly water changes.>
Or should I start doing the weekly 25% water changes etc?
<Quite so.>
And exactly how close to 1ppm is too close?
<Anything above 0.5 ppm ammonia will be stressing the Apple snails, so I'd keep things at that level or lower where possible. Remember, the ammonia you detect is the ammonia the bacteria haven't used -- it's surplus to requirements. As the bacteria multiply upwards, this surplus ammonia will get smaller, eventually to zero. But whether you have 0.5 ppm or 500 ppm, it's still ammonia the bacteria can't use at this moment in time; their rate of growth is limited by other things, like oxygen and temperature. The ammonia itself is no longer a limiting factor. It's a misconception that the more ammonia that's present, the faster the bacteria can grow. If you remember back to your High School biology class (or would in the UK anyway) you'll remember how photosynthesis speeds up with light intensity up to a point, then levels off, even if the light keeps getting brighter. Other things, like temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, become "limiting factors". This is precisely the same situation; ammonia concentration is just one factor limiting the growth rate of the bacteria in the filter.>
Again, I want to thank the "crew" for the website, and, especially, Neale for his inexhaustible patience with a newbie. Thanks so much.
<We're glad to help.>
Laura
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: I'm baaaack.. with more questions about cycling my tank...  9/18/09
Wow! Thanks for the fast response!!! But based on that response, however, I'm a concerned that I'm doing something wrong. Nitrite levels still show 0 ppm.
<Could well be the nitrite-consuming bacteria are fully matured. Here's my thing: if the rotting shrimp was producing vastly more ammonia than the filter could deal with (in terms of having space for bacteria) then you'd get surplus ammonia. With water changes and time, the ammonia level is now dropping down because the shrimp has gone. If the ammonia drops to zero and stays there, even with the snails, that would be my interpretation. In any case if the ammonia goes down, and the nitrate goes up relative to what your tap water nitrate level is, you're doing fine.>
Now we've either been cycling for 10 days (the day we started with the shrimp), or 3 (after the huge water change and trade of shrimp for snails). But we've never had a reading above 0ppm for nitrites. Is the test just not sensitive enough at this level?
<Could well be.>
I'm using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Oh, and this might seem silly but how do I know the snails are eating?
<They are. Add a slice of cucumber or something, and you'll see them dig in.>
I got some Tropical Fish Flakes and I've put in a pinch every couple of days, but it sure doesn't seem like much.
<Maybe go with an algae pellet, such as Hikari Algae Wafers. One of these every day or two would be ample for a few Apple snails.>
Thanks again, and again!!!
Laura
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: I'm baaaack.. with more questions about cycling my tank...  9/18/09
OH! And I do remember back to high school biology. But, more recently (although not recent), in Economics (my chosen field of study) we call the phenomenon of which you speak the Law of Diminishing Returns.
<Indeed so. The principle is the same.>
Cheers to you!!!
<Likewise, Neale.>

Re: I'm baaaack.. with more questions about cycling my tank...  9/18/09
Hi there,
<Ave,>
I have a follow up about feeding the snails. I got four. Everyone seems to be doing fine except the black one. It's only been 3 days, but all of her buddies are a LOT more active than she is. The night before last, she crawled into a dark corner in one of the hiding places and didn't come out, until I brought her out this morning. Also, she's sort of changing color. Three days ago when we bought her she was black. Today she's getting an
ivory colored band. She has moved about a very little bit today, but not much. We brought her home on Sunday. She checked out the entire tank, found a shady spot she liked and hung out there.
<Do watch the temperature; Apple snails actually prefer somewhat cool conditions, and may go dormant when too hot. Treat 25 C/77 F as the upper limit, and slightly below that the optimum.>
Monday she moved around a bit, then went into the cave I mentioned earlier. I can't really find information on whether this is "usual" behavior. The other three are all over the place. So I'm not really sure what to make of this. Is she sick?
<Apple snails pretty well have two modes: alive and dead. They're very difficult to diagnose. Would observe for now. In the meantime, do browse:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsnails.htm
There's a really good TFH book about Apple snails too, called "Apple Snails in the Aquarium" worth hunting down. Partially about their husbandry, but lots about their biology; a great evening's read as well as a useful text to have when keeping, breeding these interesting animals.>
Should I try the algae wafers and wait and see. (I will be getting the algae wafers anyway, it's a sinking wafer right?) Also, I read in the FAQ that they like a cuttlefish bone in the tank. Can I do this for them, or is it a bad idea?
<Redundant if the water is reasonably hard and you're offering them plenty of fresh vegetables. By all means put a small seashell like an oyster shell in there if you want, but too much could mess up the pH.>
Thanks!
Laura
<Cheers, Neale.>

Goldfish in Distress, Cycling - 6/9/08 Help! <You called?> I have researched for hours, weeks. I LOVE my goldfish. I understand the nitrogen cycle. I know what needs to happen. <Okay! Sounds good!> I was at the point where my nitrites were starting to go up (and My nitrates were finally on the rise.) <Hmm...so you have an uncycled aquarium with fish in it? This is very, very hard on the fish...though I'm sure you know that from your research> It was time to change my filter cartridge in my Top Fin aquarium and I was concerned that it would disrupt my biological filter since I would be replacing all the filter media at once. <You were rightly concerned...this is the case. I would advise, however, that you ignore manufacturer's time schedules for replacing a filter. Removing the old carbon, rinsing out any severe guck in the floss filter in a cup of old tank water, and replacing the same floss will extend the life of these filters (and your nitrifying bacteria!) by many months. This is especially crucial if you are cycling- by throwing out that filter you undo everything that has been accomplished so far.> So I called the "Top Fin help line" <Uh-oh> with my concerns and they said it would be "fine" to just throw out my old filter and replace it with one of their new filter cartridges. <not fine...not fine.> Within hours, my ammonia levels went to 1.0 and I cannot bring it down with partial water changes. I'll go to 50 to 70 percent next. I'll stay up all night if I have to. <I would recommend that you find your fish another home until your aquarium is cycled. Throwing out the old filter has completely re-started your cycle, and the aquarium is a glass cube of poison right now. Furthermore, cycling will never really occur as long as water changes are removing the ammonia from the water. Please read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm re fishless cycling, more useful articles and queries are linked at the top of the page.> Please, how can we stop these people from telling us that it will be OK. <We can't. Ignorance is the fundamental human right...the tyranny of the uninformed, and all> Petsmart is where I bought my fish and they told me it would be OK to put 3 or 4 goldfish in my ten gallon tank! And they said I could add a Pleco! <Not uncommon...again, old industry selling standards. If everyone did aquariums right, unfortunately, many mass retailers would go out of business. I would advise you join some online forums, such as ours here at bb.wetwebmedia.com, buy a few books, and use tools on the web like wetwebmedia.com to do your learning and question-asking, rather than the advise of store clerks who may or may not be aquarists themselves.> Fortunately for my fish, I have researched and found out that they each need 20 to thirty gallons. (And that a Pleco is not a good idea) <Bravo!> I am asking for a new tank for my birthday in July but I need help with my current situation. <Find your fish a temporary home in a safe system, or an additional tank in which you can perform massive water changes, and allow your aquarium to fully cycle before reintroducing your goldfish.> Thank you. <No problem! I hope all goes well for you and your scaled friend! Benjamin> Sincerely, Laurie Dupuis

Tank Cycling Question (Guppies) 4/22/08 Hi I've spent a week reading up on keeping guppies before setting up my tank and I just found your site yesterday. I've been reading up on cycling, and I think I understand it all now (or maybe you'll prove me wrong). <OK.> I've got a 40 gallon tank which has been running with the sand, heater/filter/light for a few days and I'm off to the LFS today to buy a large mixture of plants (partly to hide the hideous looking filter!). If I then add a pair of male guppies will the cycle be more 'gentle' than most? <Guppies are an appalling species for cycling tanks; Fancy Guppies at least are flimsy at the extreme. Feeder Guppies are arguably better, but in any case, you should cycle the tank with a fish-less method anyway. Set up the tank, and either use ammonia dosed sufficient to maintain around 0.25-1 mg/l or else just add a portion of flake food every day or two and let it rot. After 3-4 weeks, the tank should have cycled adequately well you can add the first hardy fish.> I'm hoping that 2 small fish in a relatively large, well planted tank won't cause huge levels of ammonia/nitrites. <If you have two tiny fish in a giant tank, the amount of ammonia they produce will only develop filter bacteria adequate for two tiny fish. As soon as you add a big fish, like a Plec or Cichlid, there will suddenly be a new ammonia crisis as the bacteria are totally overwhelmed. So you may as well cycle the tank using ammonia/food at a level where it mimics the foreseen loading in terms of fish.> Thanks for any help, I really appreciate the time you guys put into answering all our questions. Jef <Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

Nitrogen Cycling Process and Timing -- 04/1/08 Crew, Thank you for offering such a fantastic service. I believe I have spent a couple dozen hours searching your pages for help and general tips. But I haven't found anything that answers this question regarding timing. With that I would like to raise my concern. As a fairly new hobbyist, I've probably made some mistakes. My current setup is a 10 gallon freshwater tank. The *current* parameters and stock are as listed: Average Temp: Heated to 74-75 (I have 2 therms in there to check) Ammonia: Safe (an indicator, not a test) Hardness: ~200 (GH) ppm Alkalinity: ~200 (KH) ppm pH: 8 (I add TopFin pH Decrease about everyday, but it never goes down according to my test strips) Chlorine and related chemicals: 0 Nitrite: 7 ppm (mg/L) Nitrate: 17 ppm (mg/L) Stock: 2 African Dwarf Frogs (gender unknown), 1 Male Guppy, and 3 Female Guppies Plant life: 1 Anubias (don't know exactly what kind) and 2 Anacharis Substrate: Medium sized gravel (definitely not big enough to be swallowed by any critters I'll keep) Tank Lighting: None (room and natural light) Filter: A generic TopFin 10 gallon hanging filter <Without actual aquarium lights, it's unlikely the plants will grow. Certainly not the Anacharis, so you may as well remove that before it rots. Anubias isn't fussy about lighting, and will do well even with a mere 1-1.5 Watts per gallon.> Here is where I made a couple of mistakes. This setup is only about 3 weeks old (I know, too many too fast). It was up and running for 24 hours after being treated with Prime and Cycle before I added any critters. The first critter was one frog. I keep the lone frog for one week, doing about 3 water tests (with those multi-test strips). The parameters seemed fine. So I bought the 1 male guppy and 2 female guppies (I anticipate them getting pregnant, but don't plan on actually raising the fry. If they become food for their parents, I won't complain. I plan on raising later broods). I also added more Cycle, per instructions, and do 25% water changes once to twice a week. The water tests revealed that everything was still OK. Since everything seemed ok, I bought another African Dwarf Frog another female guppy (also too quickly as I found out). I fed the frogs a mix of frozen bloodworms and frozen brine shrimp (primarily bloodworms) twice a day. And the guppies 2-3 times a day with flake food. I hand feed the frogs and if I notice that the guppies eat some of the frog's food, I will count that as a meal for the guppies and accordingly feed them less that day. Within a couple days of having purchased the guppies the ammonia indicator changed to "Alert" which I expected while the bacteria was still catching up to having 5 new critters in the tank. The Nitrites and Nitrates have also risen (as I also expected). I just figured that it was most likely the tank doing it's own cycling process since I, in my novice-ness, didn't do a good job cycling. The rest of the parameters seemed fine, with no real changes. Well now the ammonia indicator is saying that the ammonia is back down to safe (which I am very pleased about). But the nitrites are still high and the nitrates are rising. <Nitrite always lags a couple of weeks behind ammonia, so if the ammonia is now zero, the nitrite will be declining pretty soon.> I've cut back the feeding. I feed the frogs once a day and the guppies twice a day. I also keep the light off a little more (but am also concerned that the plants might not get enough light). I also have not bought a vacuum yet for my tank, so I imagine the substrate is getting kinda dirty. I've budgeted for a vacuum soon. <Lay off feeding entirely while you have ammonia/nitrite problems. Or at least, feed no oftener than once every 2-3 days. The Guppies at least will eat algae, and Frogs certainly don't need a lot of food.> Here is my question. In a normal cycling process, does the ammonia level drop back to 0 before the nitrites do? <yes.> Is it a domino effect? <No.> I'm concerned that the nitrites will continue to rise, thus increasing my nitrate levels to less-than-friendly levels. Or should I just give the tank a few more days and another water change to see where the parameters stand? I test the water daily and actually record the data collected on an excel spreadsheet. I have graphs that show exactly where the levels are and have been, which then provide me with indications of where the parameters might be heading. This document is available if you would like to see it. <No need. Nothing here is terribly unusual. Patience, water changes, reduced food, constant monitoring will help you get through this phase. I suspect you already know this since you're doing mostly the right things and asking the right questions.> So in sum; will my nitrite levels naturally decrease with time, just like my ammonia levels did? And is there a cost-effective way to reduce nitrate (other than my weekly 25% water changes)? <Nope.> I'm sorry that I'm so new at this, but I have learned a lot and am still learning. Thanks again for the wonderful work you guys accomplish here in helping us. Hope to hear from you soon and keep up the good work. Very Respectfully, Dan <You will need aquarium lights, and a 10 gallon tank is too small for Guppies in the long term, but beyond that, "the light is at the end of the tunnel". Cheers, Neale.>

Cycling without a filter? FW, Betta... sys.    3/17/08 Dear Crew, <Hello,> I bought a male Betta about 4 days ago. I got him a 5 gallon tank, some gravel, plants, Amquel for the water and OmegaOne Betta pellets. <Fine.> No filter and no heater. <Unacceptable.> The local aquatic shop told me not to change the water for about a month so that it would establish a cycle. <Not only garbage advice, but also dangerous: the bacteria are not in the water but in the filter, and not changing the water only allows the ammonia to build up to toxic levels.> Then I should bring in a water sample so they could determine that the ammonia and nitrite levels had spiked and declined. Then after that, I should do a 10% water change weekly to keep up the cycle. <In a tank without a filter, you need to be doing daily water changes of at least 25%. Seriously. No-one in their right mind keeps fish this way. Get a filter of some sort. Even a plain vanilla sponge filter with an air pump will do the trick for a tank this size. Otherwise, your Betta has a very short lifespan ahead of it.> He said that Betta are "tough" and that mine would survive the ordeal just fine. <Horse hooey. Wild Bettas are indeed quite tough animals, but fancy Bettas are not. It's like saying a pampered Persian cat would thrive on the plains of the Serengeti.> I'm purchasing a 25 watt heater tomorrow and I gave him some aquarium salt today. <Aquarium salt...? Who told you to add this stuff. It's not a brackish water fish and doesn't need salt. It needs a FILTER and a HEATER. Please, read a book about Bettas and then make sensible purchases. Your retailer has marked you as what we in the trade call a "sucker" and is selling you any old thing. Please don't let him do this! Be an educated shopper!> The shop guy said that the salt and raising the temp would help my Betta's immune system and help him get through the cycle. <Double garbage. Think about this scientifically. Does your medic tell you to eat a box of salt when you're ill? Does he tell you to turn the heating up in your house? No. What your fish needs is a constant temperature (25C/77F) and good quality FRESHWATER conditions.> He maintained that I do not need a for a 5 gallon tank. Does this all seem right? <No it does not.> I don't want to hurt my Betta or cause him to get sick. <Probably too late. If he's sitting in an unfiltered, unheated bowl he is about as happy as you would be skinny dipping in a garbage dump in Siberia.> Please advise. <Read. Books. Now.> Also, what do you think about using Aquarisol as a parasite preventative? <Again, think about this using your science education. Does your doctor tell you to consume anti-parasite medications just to stay healthy? No. A healthy diet, clean water, exercise are among the things you do to "prevent" sickness. Likewise for your fish. Keep the water clean by using a filter and running regular water changes. Provide a nice varied diet with a mix of different things through the week, not the same food day-in, day-out. Keep the temperature constant using a heater. All basic stuff. Nothing fancy.> Sincerely, Heidi <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Cycling without a filter? -03/17/08 Dear Neale, <Heidi,> Thank you for your prompt reply. I certainly didn't intend to do the wrong things for my Betta and was hoping that a store that specializes in fish would give me the right advice. <Wishful thinking, unfortunately.> Obviously I was mistaken. I will certainly purchase a heater and a sponge filter promptly and will get some Betta books. <Don't need "some". Just one will do, and I'd recommend a nice little all-around aquarium book so you have all the facts at your fingertips.> I do want to be a responsible, informed owner, not a sucker. <Indeed!> Should I do a water change now before introducing a heater and a filter? <Water changes are always good, so if in doubt, do 'em.> If so, how much? <25-50%.> Also, after introducing a filter, how often and how much water should I change? <25-50%.> At this point, should I clean the gravel, plants, etc and start fresh? Or will the used gravel help with the nitrogen cycle? <It'll help somewhat. Give everything a good clean in water taken from the aquarium.> Do I need to introduce the heat gradually? <No, the heater should raise the temperature quite slowly, especially if you buy the correct wattage for the tank you have. Don't switch the heater on right away though: they can crack if they start getting hot before the glass has reached ambient water temperature first. Not common, but happens.> I'm obviously just learning about all this...but in general, it seems like I would clean the filter weekly, change a percentage of the water weekly, and vacuum the gravel. <Pretty much. I don't clean the sand/gravel that often, and normal just "suck up" the detritus with the siphon as I'm taking water out. But each to their own on this.> I know that the temperature of the new water has to be the same as the old, what is the best way to accomplish that if there is a heater in the tank? <Slightly cool water added to the tank causes no problems, so don't get paranoid. If you like, let the new water reach room temperature before adding to the aquarium (easier if you have two buckets, one for the new water to sit in, and then another to take old water out when you're ready).> Is there ever a time to completely wash everything, plants, gravel, tank, etc? <As and when. Most folks find they need to "deep clean" their tanks every year or two, but some are more house-proud, others less so. In theory, water changes and the filter should remove almost all of the dirt between them.> Finally, is it good to introduce a live plant such as a java fern? <Makes no odds either way. If you have a light over the tank, then by all means add a plant suitable to the wattage of that light. Otherwise, it's just one more thing to worry about. The fish don't care if plants are real or plastic.> If so, at what point can I put it in the tank without messing up any cycling? <Has no effect.> Until I have read all those books to properly inform me, I'm really wishing that you could just give me a list of what do to, in order, from this point on. <I'm $250 an hour! But seriously, Bob has a nice article on Betta Basics. Read it! http://208.112.95.51/FWSubWebIndex/betta_splendens.htm Any questions after that, get in touch.> Is that too much to ask or seems like too much hand-holding? <Holding hands is nice, but knowing better yourself is best! Read and learn.> I really appreciate your time and advice. <happy to help.> Sincerely, Heidi <Cheers, Neale.>

Fishless Cycle.   3/12/08 Hello Neale, <Hello again!> you might remember that I had the intention of starting a 46-gal tank. Well, that tank is now stocked of plants and currently undergoing a fishless cycle. In particular, the cycle started 20 days ago and I'm now in phase 2 with Nitrite stuck at 2, Ammonia is 0 and Nitrates 10. I have few questions: 1) How long do you think it's going to take for the cycle to finish? <Varies, anything up to 6 weeks. Increasing temperature and oxygenation can help, within the tolerances of your plants of course, as will adding pinches of fish food to give the bacteria something to "eat".> 2) The water turned cloudy and has a green color. Do you think I should do a partial water change or it's better to hold off and wait until the cycle is over? <Do the water change. It is quite common for water to turn cloudy early on in an aquarium's life. Settles down by itself eventually.> I never did a partial water change so far in that tank, but I'm a bit worried that the green water could affect plants growth. <Shouldn't cause any long-term problems; once the plants become established and actively growing, they will suppress the growth of algae across the board: on the glass, in the water, on the leaves.> Thanks for your help, Giuseppe <Good luck! Neale.>

Question on mini-cycle after fishless cycle, FW    2/19/08 Hello Crew, <Allison> I started a 30-gallon freshwater aquarium on a fishless cycle and got ammonia and nitrite readings down to zero after about a month. I then purchased six zebra Danios and three Cory catfish. I've had the fish for eight days and am now detecting 1ppm ammonia. <Ah, yes... perhaps a "little too much, too soon" life being placed here> I'm hoping that the fishless cycle did some real good and that this is just a mini cycle. What should be my next move? <Mmm, reading and perhaps the use of BioSpira or such... and cessation of feeding with ammonia this high. Start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above> Today I changed about 10% of my water using tapwater conditioned with Amquel. I have chloramine in my water so I know I need something that neutralizes both the chlorine and ammonia, but I'm concerned that the Amquel, even though I added it only to the new water, will remove the ammonia in my aquarium and leave my bacteria to starve once I add the conditioned water to the tank. <Mmm, good question/concern... Shouldn't remove all, so much that it causes a loss of nitrification> I've read conflicting things about whether the ammonia left from Amquel can actually be eaten by the bacteria or whether it throws off your biological cycle. I read Bob Fenner's article (http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/taptrtmnt.htm) on treating tap water but I wish he listed what the "real" dechloraminators and the "pseudo" dechloraminators are. I.e. is Amquel the real thing? <It is indeed... as are all such products that contain PVP (Poly vinyl pyrolidone)...> I also have a product called Stress Coat by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals which says it neutralizes chloramine but I have a feeling this product falls into the pseudo category because of what Bob wrote about coating the fish so the chloramine doesn't attack them, even though it's not neutralized in the water. <This is also a fine product... by API, the other by Kordon...> Summary of my questions: what do I do in this mini-cycle, what is a good ppm to shoot for both ammonia and nitrite to reduce harm to my fish but keep the biological filter growing, and what is the best tap water conditioner for getting rid of chloramines but not disrupting the cycle? Thanks!! Allison <Move the livestock to an established system if possible, cease feeding period if ammonia is near 1.0 ppm., make massive water changes if beyond this... Seek out means to bolster the nitrifying organisms (covered in the citation above)... Bob Fenner>

Un-cycled emergency tank, FW    2/11/08 Hi guys, <John> I'm new to this but I'm concerned about something. I had to move 8 of my fish : 4 Days Paradise 2 Albino Corys 2 Sterba's Corys to an un-cycled tank. <Mmmm... why?> I got the temp and PH exactly the same and added API Stress Zyme (though I've heard mixed reviews). So basically I'm cycling the emergency 30 Gallon with my 8 fish. I'm monitoring everything but what are their chances of survival. Thanks, John. <Better if steps taken to speed up the establishment of nitrification, lessen the accumulation of ammonia, nitrite... I'd be reading: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Un-cycled emergency tank 2-12-08 Thanks for getting back so soon Bob. <Welcome John> The link was great. I only moved the fish to that tank because they were flashing and I didn't want the other fish in danger. I've dosed the new un-cycled tank with Coppersafe and Maracyn as I don't know if it's Ich or Velvet yet. It was intended to be the QT tank but I hadn't expected to use it so soon. I'm keeping an eye on them. <Ah good> Thanks again. John. <Welcome. BobF> Re: Un-cycled emergency tank It's a fantastic site. I'll be making a donation shortly. Great work. John. <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. BobF>

 

Extended Cycling 1/15/08 Hi WWM Crew, <Hello,> I am setting up a rather small (40 G/ 150L) Tanganyika Tank. Water, Substrate (Aragonite) and Rocks are in the tank. Filter, Heater and Maxi jet are running. Filter is a Fluval 305, Media right now are Prodibio Bio Digest on Ceramic Media, Activated Carbon and 100ml of ROWAphos. <Sounds great, though I admit to considering carbon a total waste of space in freshwater tanks.> I'm slowly raising pH and KH to 9.0 and ~14KH respectively. Unfortunately I realized that I'll have to be away from the tank <Oh...?> for 3 weeks at the end of March. There will be somebody who can fill up evaporated water once a week, but not much more. <OK.> My questions here is, is there any problem to be expected when I extend the cycling and wait with the livestock until I'm back in late April? <None at all. If the tank is currently unstocked, throw in one or two of those dumb "holiday" food blocks. As the calcium carbonate (or whatever they are) dissolves, it releases small amounts of flake food. The food will rot, release ammonia in the process, and keep the bacteria happy. I think those blocks last 2 weeks, in which case you might ask your "baby sitter" to throw the second one in halfway through your trip.> I really don't want to put a couple of juveniles in there to pair off, and then not be there if there is any trouble. <Agreed.> Should I feed the bacteria with some fish food or organic salmon scraps? <Yes, but do as indicated above, so the food is releases slowly, a bit at a time.> As usual, many thanks for your great help and input, Jörg <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Extended Cycling   3/5/08 Hi Neale, <Hello Jörg,> it's Jörg again. So of course I couldn't keep my hands still and started to play with the 10 gal. planted tank, (the Tanganyika is still undergoing that extended cycle...nothing new there) and I now fully understand the warnings about small high wattage high fertilizer systems. That chemistry changes for sure fast in that tank, so I am learning daily, trying to make sense of what I see. <Yes, this is a problem with small tanks anyway, but as soon as you add biogenic decalcification (plants removing bicarbonate as a substrate for photosynthesis) and CO2 fertilisation, the whole things becomes essentially unpredictable -- as far as I can tell, anyway!> So in short over a period of 3.5 months I went from pH 6.8, KH 1.5, GH 1.5,no CO2, 18W to pH 7.4, KH 5.5, GH 7.0, DIY yeast generated CO2, 36W/8000K. <Yikes!> Of course the DIY yeast CO2 required some learning, and over the last couple of days it was rather low as my yeast batch ran out of steam, and I was waiting for a better yeast strain to arrive in the mail. Anyway, the pH suddenly raced up to 8.1. <Hmm... I hope there aren't any fish in there. This sort of pH change doesn't do them any good at all.> I made a water change with some low pH water I had from soaking driftwood, and brought down the pH to 7.8, still high for the Tetras and Corys, but I didn't want to hammer those guys... <Couldn't matter less to them; fish want a stable pH long before they want a specific pH. You can easily maintain Corydoras and most tetras at pH 8, provided it is stable.> Made tests again yesterday and the situation is as follows pH 8.1, KH 3.3, GH 6.7, CO2 generator is still not at full production (~ 48 hrs running). If I take some of the water and keep it in beaker for an hour or so the pH drops to 7.4, nothing done to it..., Tank Temp. is 78 F. <During the daytime, under bright lights the plants should be removing the CO2, allowing pH to rise; if you left the CO2 running at night though the water would become acidic. Hence you need to switch off or disconnect the CO2 generator at night. If you remove the water to a glass where there are no plants, the CO2 presumably dissociates into carbonic acid, and hence the lowers the pH. I guess... I'm not 100% sure.> I'm using a pH meter (calibrated to 7.00 @ 77F) and some drop tests for cross checking my sanity. <Good.> Is it the fertilizers? <CO2 fertilisation? Yes, at least in part.> What am I not getting here? The pH should drop after the water change and the KH now being 2 degrees lower, no? <When you do a nice big water change, the pH, hardness and carbonate hardness should move towards whatever your tap water is. It will take a little time for the CO2 generator and the effects of photosynthesis to kick in> Why does it stay high, even so I've added softer, lower pH water? <No idea. In any case, I'd be reducing the CO2 amount by 25%, 50% and so on until I arrived at a value that resulted in minimal pH changes.> Once the CO2 kicks in it should go down again, but I'd really like to understand why it stays up there so stubbornly... <In the ideal case, the plants should be using up the CO2 as fast as you're adding it, so that pH depression should be minimal. Try using smaller amounts, measure the pH night and day, and determine by trial-and-error what's the amount you need. The theory is fine, but practise is what counts. Try leaving off the CO2 for a few days, and see how the pH changes. If it still changes, then there's something else going on.> Thanks, for your input, can't wait to hear what you think. Jörg <Cheers, Neale.>

Fishless-Cycling Unwanted Snails off of Plants (How about some Dwarf Puffers?) 12/18/07 Hello WWM Crew, <Hi Bill, Pufferpunk here> I've just set up a new aquarium (29G) in the last 2 days and am in the process of fishless cycling, using 4-5 drops of additive-free ammonia per day based on recommendations I've gathered from around the web. <4-5 drops won't be nearly sufficient--you need to add enough ammonia to get it to test at 5ppm. Waaaay more than 5 drops! Keep that up daily, until you see nitrite & then half the amount of drops until you see nitrate & the ammonia & nitrate remain 0 at the end of the day. Then do an 80% water change & add fish. Simple! Don't forget to "seed" the tank with some gravel from an established tank.> I love aquarium plants and I plan on being able to support livebearer fry (got my eye on some platy fish and maybe guppies) so I've been acquiring plants like hornwort, java moss, etc. with lots of tiny hiding places on them. Research I've seen on the web leads me to believe that plants will grow and thrive in the presence of fish-toxic ammonia levels, so I've bravely placed them in the tank while it cycles, along with some driftwood. I got them at local fish super-stores and unfortunately, that means pond snails. Brown, football shaped pond snails. There are little juvenile pond snails sliding all over my new plants, hiding in very tiny places of both moss and driftwood! I just dropped them into the cycling water last night. My question is: Will Pond snails survive the ammonia cycle? <Probably not.> Can/Should I cycle the tank with a little extra ammonia to eradicate them en-masse as a convenient side-effect? <You definitely need to add more than you are now, for a successful fishless cycle. That should kill the snails & actually aide in the cycling. I'd try to remove as many as the carcasses you find.> I clearly want to avoid hurting my plants with excess ammonia. There's no charcoal in my tank at the moment but my water is a little under PH 7 which will reduce the ammonia toxicity (to fish!). Temp is usually 74-78 F. <Why the such large fluctuation in temp? You're going to try to keep that steadier, around 78.> I'm having trouble locating data on ammonia toxicity to plants (and ammonia-eating bacteria) and I'm worried about being too clever for my own good because after all ammonia is still a household disinfectant. <Your plants should be fine.> As an alternative, I've thought about using Clown loaches or some Dwarf puffers (among others) for snail removal once the tank finishes cycling but I have no intention of keeping them in my tank permanently and it seems a little selfish to "rent" a fish from a pet store (buying then returning it). <I strongly agree!> If I buy a sick fish, the rest of my tank could get sick too. Also, I'm not sure how effective fish (even the tiny puffers) would be at eliminating snails completely from the middle of a mass of java moss, how long I'd have to keep them in there to wait for remaining snail eggs to hatch and be eaten, etc... <Puffers & loaches are very efficient snail eradicators. Maybe you'll fall in love with the puffers though! They are very easy to breed too. You could keep 5 of them in your 29g but be sure to get 1-2 males & the rest females. Here is how to sex them: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library/puffers-in-focus/sexing-carinotetraodon-travancoricus-the-dwarf-puffer/ just in case...> Last resort: snail killer. I don't like the idea of putting pesticides in my tank *at all* but if there was ever a time to nuke the tank with chemicals, the best time is when there aren't any fish around to get caught in the crossfire. Since I'm already planning on doing a big water change before adding any fish, removing snail killer chemicals would conveniently fit into my plan. <Don't do it!> One final question, slightly related. I have another established tank in addition to the new one. I would like to have a breeding colony of ghost shrimp and the breeding colony of livebearers mentioned above. Should these be in separate tanks or could they both go into the new tank once it's done? Platies seem to like nibbling at rocks, leaves, plastic and I'm worried about them eating all the baby ghosts. <I think the fish would eat the baby shrimp.> Thanks a bunch, Bill PS: Love the site! <Thanks! I know I gave you more info on those puffers than you asked for but I thought you might be interested in breeding something a little more challenging & personable than platies. I could be prejudiced though... ;) ~PP>

Re: Fishless-Cycling Unwanted Snails off of Plants (How about some Dwarf Puffers?) 12/29/07 Hey Pufferpunk, <Bill> I started re-reading general plant information and strayed off into the business of livestocking articles, not searching but perusing. There I happened across Bob's 20-minute Alum solution recipe for killing snails on plants. Now I feel like I rushed it by adding the plants at all! Oh well, it went into the favorites list. <Good, keep researching!> Wow, 5ppm ammonia? I squirted some extra in last night and it tested at .5. The snails are barely affected, Grr! If my math is correct, a 29G tank is going to have around... 105,000 ML in it. So if I add two ML's of ammonia (and it's pure) then that should give me around 5 PPM, right? Hmm, will have to run a test on that! <Definitely. You can start in a gallon/liter jug & see how much ammonia it takes to get that to 5ppm.> Keep temperature under control, ok. (I wasn't too concerned yet without fish). <I was more concerned about your future fish.> On the subject of puffers, 3-5 gallons for a one inch fish seems like... kind of a lot of open water. More than I was planning on, anyway. <Puffers are territorial (prefer lots of plants/decor to investigate), messy eaters & high waste producers. They make up for it with personality though!> Perusing that link you sent me quickly, I see that Dwarf puffers are often fin nippers on just about everything, big or small. Any suggestions for compatibility? Do you they usually suffer from an overcrowding issue more than a compatibility issue? <A little of both. Folks have success keeping them with Otocinclus & larger species of shrimp. Stocking your "breeding facility" is totally up to you. Just thought I'd give you my preferences. Don't get me wrong, I also love breeding my mollies too!> Thanks again, Bill

Re: Parrotfish (gone, now trying to fix tank) 12/25/07 Hi Jeni, <Shana> <<Unfortunately, it can be a difficult to find product. I'd call around first--save gas $$$>> I found another product that claimed to have "live" bacteria, but as you said it was bunk, I didn't buy it. I will call around and see if I can find some. Is it worth it to order it online considering the delivery time with the holidays and all? <Good call! Your best bet is to try www.drsfostersmith.com. At least you'll know it has been refrigerated correctly. Do daily water changes until it arrives & another large water change, before adding it directly to your filter.> <<You need to know what your ammonia level is too. No need really, to test hardness or Alk>> Ok, I will have to get a tester for that then. I sent my husband to get a test kit and he came home with the strips. I gave you the information that the strips gave me. <Try the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals liquid test kits from the same site.> <<There is never any reason not to do large water changes on your tank, unless it has Old Tank Syndrome, which means there hasn't been a water change done on the tank in a very long time. Since you are dealing with New Tank Syndrome, large water changes are the only thing you can do right now to keep the fish from poisoning themselves with their waste. You must try your best to keep the ammonia & nitrite at 0 (any amount is toxic) & nitrate below 20. I would do 80% daily water changes, until you can return most of those fish. Add Prime to dechlorinate the water, it will detoxify some of the ammonia/nitrite in there. Be sure to try and match the temperature of the water you remove.>> Ok, all of that makes sense to me. Unfortunately I lost my eel this evening. However, since the tank change this evening (80%, close to matching temp, like you said), all of the others are FAR more active and all of them ate well. <Sorry about your eel. :o{ Glad the water change is helping though.> When I drew out the water though, I was surprised to find it far cooler than it had been the day before. I put it in warm, did a 20% change and suddenly it was cold. I thought my heater had gone on the fritz but I burned the F......eathers out of myself when I touched it. I am certain the cooler water temp didn't help anyone, much less my injured eel but am a loss as to why it was cooler than it was when I put it in. <Maybe the heater isn't strong enough for your tank? Be careful changing the temp too quickly, stressing the fish further.> <<Where did the parrot go? The tiger barbs will nip at the long fins of the Betta, guppies & angelfish Common Plecos grow to 18">> I took the parrot back on Saturday (along with the red tail shark they sold me). They wouldn't take the angel or eel back as they weren't a danger to anyone in the tank (according to them) and they would be fine in the tank (according to them). They wouldn't issue a refund or certificate for later purchase for the fish they did allow return on--all they would do is trade, so I ended up bringing more fish back home. <Oh no! The tank still is not cycled. Last thing you needed was more fish. I can't believe they wouldn't have just given you a credit for later. Not the way to do business in a fish store AT ALL!> She assured me over & over that the barbs would be fine with the angel and Betta (and my guppies were in a bag waiting for me at that moment). I kept thinking I had read they were nippers but she repeatedly assured me they were not and so I came home with a couple. They do the weirdest thing though: kind of a do-se-do with each other. They do something that looks like "kissing", then they twirl around with each other, then one pushes the other (they take turns at that). I can't tell if they are fighting, mating or playing. They are oblivious to the rest of the world when they are doing it though. <Schooling fish will chase each other (sometimes to the death), if not in a school of at least 5-6 fish.> I found out that my husband knows the actual owner of the store (he doesn't run it or have much to do with it other than financing it, I guess). I have been dealing with a manager and an employee. So, my husband is going to try to reach the owner tomorrow and work something out with them. If nothing else, maybe we can get them to foster my brood until my tank is up to par for them (this is a very small, local store). <I hope so! I also hope you print out a copy of our correspondence & tell him about the horrid advice his employees are giving out. I can guarantee you they are selling everyone tank fulls of fish for uncycled tanks & killing a LOT of fish.> All options are with the exception of the barbs. Even if I have to give those back at a loss, I will. Hopefully they will trade with me but if not, they still aren't coming back here. I'm ticked that twice now, in 3 days, I have been talked into buying an aggressive fish that will harm my Betta or angel. Those are the 2 primary fish for me, with the Betta being in the lead. I feel so bad for Bettas and they are such beautiful, friendly fish that are loaded with personality--the Betta is the reason and center of the tank. If it doesn't get along with a Betta, it doesn't belong in my tank. Angels are my next favorite as they are so beautiful, calm and laid back. They just cruise and are just a mesmerizing joy to watch. <As long as you only keep one though. If keeping 2 & they try to spawn, they turn into beasts!> Those are my 2 fish, anything else is an additive that I will attach to later. (I am rapidly becoming very fond of my bubble mollies). The guppies are like watching a couple of kids--you just never know what they are going to do, lol. <Bettas & guppies won't work. Bettas don't like competing with other long-finned fish.> The barbs are beauties and they interest me in their activities but they need to go if they are going to be harmful to the others, as I now don't doubt they will be. Now, I have a couple of other questions: I am keeping the Betta. He is not going back, even for fostering. They sell their Bettas in these little 4 oz condiment cups with no air holes in the lid and barely enough water to cover the fish. I don't know if they think these guys are indestructible or what but he isn't going back there. I have a 1 gallon fish bowl that I can keep him in until he can go back into the tank. But my question is: if a Betta can live under the conditions most put them in, then wouldn't he be an ideal "scout" fish for cycling? <Any fish you put into a cycling tank is under extreme stress & danger of permanent damage to it's gills, eyes & skin from ammonia/nitrite burn.> Second, I have been concerned about my Pleco and whether he is eating. As per your site, I put some Nori (about 1/3 of a sheet torn into about 3 pieces and placed around the tank) and a bit of zucchini. I've seen the mollies eating on the Nori and zucchini but not him. Sooooo, I got him some algae wafers and put one in. I haven't seen him touch that yet either. Since the water change he is far more active and is making quite the spectacle of himself halfway up the glass (right in the middle with the light on). <This is not normal behaviour for a Pleco. He sounds stressed. Does he have enough cover? Common Plecos grow to 18", BTW.> Do you think he is eating ok? Will he find the food on his own? <Plecos are nocturnal eaters. Try adding a couple of algae wafers after lights out.> I bought some freeze dried shrimp and replaced the bloodworms with them in tonight's feeding. Everyone cleaned up. (I can't get fresh or frozen locally, so have to go with freeze dried). With so many food options, should he and the rest be ok as long as I can keep the toxin levels in the tank down for a few days until I can get them out? Like I said, the Betta I can put in a bowl. It isn't ideal but I know how to do a Betta bowl and can keep him healthy and semi happy. The rest are at the mercy of the tank. <As long as you continue to do 80% daily water changes, while monitoring the parameters. Try to keep ammonia & nitrite as close to 0 as possible (any amount of either is toxic) & nitrate below 20. If you need to do large water changes more often, go ahead. Just keep using Prime for dechlorinating. Also, I would feed as little as possible. Feeding a lot causes more waste to an uncycled tank that can't break down waste.> Thank you so much for your help. I know I'm being a PITA right now but honestly, I do learn. I have just gotten into a bad situation because I have a hard time telling people they are wrong when I know little about a subject myself. I basically let myself get bullied into my current situation and have no one to blame but myself. <This is quite a learning experience for you then--in more ways than one. :o) Nothing wrong with being a strong woman who stands up for what she thinks is right or wrong & doesn't let people bully her.> We are working on getting the fish out of the tank (I even have a 911 out to all of my friends and family to help me find someone with an established tank that can either take or foster the fish). I am not taking what you tell me lightly or thinking it will all work out ok in the end. I made a terrible mistake and know I need to be aggressive in correcting it. But I do need your help in keeping these fish alive until I can get them some place else. In that light I will sign off with my heartfelt thanks and ultimate gratitude. I've been lucky in that I've only lost one so far, I don't want to add to that number. :) <I can tell that you have quickly developed into a loving, observant fish-keeper. We need more like you in this hobby. Just continue with those water changes until the Bio-Spira comes in & all will be well. Check that site I gave you for test kits & other varieties of foods.> Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! <Same to you & good luck! ~Jeni> Shana

Heater & Antibiotic... effect on bacteria 11/29/07 Hi Crew, <Hello> I thought of putting a heater and setting it to 32 deg. C as weather is getting cooler. In your opinion, will this temp. setting kills off my beneficial bacteria (in mature tank)? <That will be too warm for about any system. What temperature does your tank run the rest of the year? What kind of system is it ? What livestock? It is likely you will need a heater this time of year, just not that warm.> I'm also thinking of dosing antibiotic into my tank for the purpose of boosting my fishes health, is this advisable or harmful? Pls. advise. <This will kill the beneficial bacteria you were referring to. If your fish are otherwise healthy there will be no reason to treat them. If they have something wrong with them it needs to be diagnosed and treated with the appropriate medication.> Thank you. Regards. Alan <Welcome, Scott V.>

Hi Crew, <Hello.> Thanks. for the prompt reply. <Welcome> Further to my questions, since 32 deg. C is considered too warm, what's the more appropriate temperature then? <Again depends on the type of system/fish. General tropical fish require 25-27 degrees C. Fish such as goldfish require less, fish such as Discus more.> My main purpose is too prevent any outbreak of disease (will be away from home for 4 days) and also one of my fish seems to have some white dots/stuff (definitely not white spots) on its body. I'm thinking of raising the temp. so as to kill off whatever causing this white stuff. Dosing of medication into the tank is out of the question. Am I doing enough? <In that case you will need to set up a quarantine tank. Raising the temperature can help, maybe to 29 deg C. The treatment again depends on the type of fish involved. Reading through the saltwater/freshwater ich articles/FAQs will shed some light on what you need to do next.> Thanks in advance. Regards. Alan <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

Establishing Discus tank   9/20/07 <<Hi. Tom here.>> I would like to establish a discus only tank. <<An enviable project!>> A site online mentioned that it is better to intro other compatible fish first to establish a bio load. <<If the site is speaking of using other fish to cycle the tank, I'd be very reluctant to use any other information it provides. That practice had its 'sunset' at least a decade ago and 'fishless' cycling has been around the hobby for much longer than that. Now, in fairness, Discus are very sensitive to water conditions so it could be that the site you're referring to is recommending adding compatible fish AFTER the tank has cycled to try to minimize the impact on the Discus when they're introduced. Rather wishful thinking if this is the case since any additional fish will always affect the bio-load to one degree or another. (I highly doubt this is what they were getting at but I'm feeling generous this afternoon. :) )>> And that the discus should not be introduced for six weeks. <<That would depend totally on the results of water testing. Six weeks may be more than enough time or, it could just as easily be premature. I doubt there's a single member of this Crew who'd suggest a specific time frame without benefit of some specific information about the water conditions. Ideally, you would be testing regularly to monitor the rise and fall of ammonia/nitrites in the tank. When only nitrates are detectable, you're 'golden'.>> Is it possible to obtain the same effect by purchasing bacteria from the LFS? <<Yes, but I'll qualify that by saying that the product needs to be BIO-Spira from Marineland. Many off-the-shelf products are largely ineffective at cycling a tank quickly and some are outright wastes of your money.>> If so, how long should I wait to introduce the fish? <<No longer than 24 hours and better if within 8-10 hours when using BIO-Spira. The Nitrospira bacteria responsible for nitrifying nitrites are quite slow to reproduce -- dismally slow by bacterial standards -- and need a source of nitrites rather quickly to remain viable and propagate. The upside, however, is that the tank is about as 'instantly cycled' with the use of this product as you can reasonably ask for. However you choose to go about cycling your tank, using live fish for this purpose shouldn't even be considered an option. Potentially sacrificing life when there are quick, safe and effective methods to accomplish the same thing would be completely irresponsible and cruel. Now, my 'soapboxing' aside, I wish you the best of luck with your Discus tank. I'm sure you'll enjoy the results! Tom>>

Re: establishing Discus tank   7/21/07 Hi again, <<Greetings again.>> At the risk of sounding stupid, I need something clarified. After adding the bottled bacteria, can I introduce discus fish? <<Not a 'stupid' question at all. Yes, you can introduce the Discus after adding the bacteria. My apologies for not being clear on that point. Tom>>

New Tank Problems Debating the Next Step... FW... mis-mix, new tank, ammonia...    9/9/07 Hello. I've done quite a bit of research in these last two weeks and have found your site to be the most informative and hopefully helpful. Our situation is probably not an uncommon one, but knowing that doesn't make it any less stressful. Two weeks ago my husband decided to invest major money in a 20 gallon aquarium. Of course since he had kept a few goldfish alive in a small tank years ago, he thought he knew what he was doing. I tried to research, but he didn't give me any time. He bought the tank and set it up on a Saturday night. He wanted to get fish 24 hours later and I tried to convince him to wait but the most he would wait was 48 hours. <Mmmm, hmm> During that time I researched the fish he wanted to get and found out that they were cichlids who would need a larger tank or to be an only child virtually. This did not jive with his idea of a tank full of pretty fish so without consulting me he decided to change to buying what he thought would be smaller more peaceful fish, and he bought 9! Mistake number one over stocked tank. Mistake number two, too many fish introduced at once. Mistake number 3 fish that didn't necessarily go together, <Yikes!> 2 Kissing Gouramis, 2 Tiger Barbs (which I discovered need to be in a larger group to get along well and not stress out each other or others) 2 Silver Dollars, 1 Bala Shark, 1 Albino Rainbow Shark and 1 Silver Tip catfish. <Some mix now! The last fish isn't even freshwater...> We then proceeded to Mistake number 4 overfeeding, he fed them everyday and probably more than he should have. Mistake number 5 was probably the wrong testing kit. Although he wouldn't listen to me and anything I found out on the web, he completely believed the LFS people. They sold him a little testing strip kit, <Notoriously inaccurate, imprecise> and although we read about the nitrogen cycle in the tank info, and knew we had to test for ammonia, since ammonia wasn't listed on the test strip we assumed that the PH and ammonia must be the same thing. Not once did the LFS people mention ammonia or testing for it. <Dismal> For several days the fish seemed okay, and according to the little strip nitrate and nitrite were okay and PH was 6.5. We did do a small water change and added the conditioner again on day 4 and all was fine. Then we began to notice the one Tiger Barb constantly bullying the other to the point of him hiding and shaking. The gouramis also seemed occasionally stressed by this fast aggressive little guy. Finally we started seeing little white spots on the gouramis and dollars and the more aggressive barb started floating funny so we removed him for a day or so and treated him with Melafix, <...> which perked him right up. I researched the spots and discovered it was ICH so we bought copper safe <!> and dosed the tank once but had to remove the filter so that the medication would absorb. During the removal of filter for the first time it ripped. Have you noticed I've stopped counting mistakes at this point. <Yes... and I must commend you... for being so level-headed and such a good recounting> The white spots did seem to fall off the fish but in my reading I knew that we needed to continue to treat the new water we added for up to a month and to raise the temp to 82 to shorten the cycle of the ICH and catch it at it's most vulnerable. Since we were treating the ICH and Mr. Barb seemed better we added him back to tank. The next day though (this is by now day 8) we noticed the water started getting murky. <Cycling...> We weren't sure if it was the treatment we added or no filter to keep things moving or the natural cycling process. We then noticed the fish sitting on the bottom from time to time not moving much. However the apparently ineffectual little strips we had from the pet store kept telling us that the nitrate and nitrite were zero and the PH was in normal 6.5 range. We did a small water change and decided to not add any more CopperSafe just in case that was the problem. <Has to be tested for (copper) to prevent poisoning from overexposure> We also added the filter back but had to replace the pad that had ripped (Mistake Number ???) because there went any good ammonia eating bacteria we might have accumulated. At this point my husband actually started asking me to see if I could find out what was wrong. <Yay!> Apparently research could have a use after all. The fish were starting to gasp, alternating between laying on the bottom and hovering under the surface. With some more research I found from some helpful people that the ammonia was probably our biggest problem. ICH could be worried about later but the ammonia would kill our fish quick. This person finally informed us that the PH and ammonia are NOT the same thing and we needed a separate kit, all of $5.00. We bought this kit the evening of day 11 and found our ammonia was halfway up the chart on 1 By this time our fish were really gasping, even our catfish and Bala were swimming funny when they had seemed the least affected. On this site I found a recommendation to do a huge water change so my husband did that and also siphoned some of the gravel as he had just bought a siphon for the first time as well. That's when he could really see the amount of waste and food that was contributing to our ammonia. He also added AmmoLock to the water as well as the conditioner this time. The fish perked up a little, but within a few hours were listless again. However it was late at night and I was gone out of the house, so he didn't do another check like I would have suggested. When I got home at midnight I thought I would ask him about it in the morning and he would tell me he had done another check, and then I would have him do another water change. However, when I woke up he had gone to play golf. I also discovered one of the fish was missing, which, when he returned from golf he told me was due to a power outage we had in the middle of the night. He things the albino made his way near the filter when it was turned off and somehow got out of the top because he was on the floor this morning. With him gone and no information I did a test myself and found ammonia still at .50, and the fish were gasping, so I did a 30 percent change adding the conditioner and AmmoLock. Two hours later they weren't looking any better. Ammonia still said .50 so I attempted a 50 percent change. Then he came home. I told him that I had done a 50 percent change but he thought I meant that morning, so about 2 hours later, while I was gone, he did a 50 percent change. I think all of this change and the ammonia finally drove the fish over the edge, because within 2 hours of this last change, the 2 dollars, the Bala, the catfish, and one Barb all lost the fight. The 2 gouramis and remaining barb didn't look so well either so he removed them for awhile and decided to do another big water r change, still with the AmmoLock and conditioner, and clean the gravel really well. He then waited and checked the ammonia and it was down to .25. I did finally buy a separate nitrite kit so will test that too instead of believing the zero the little strip test tells me. So now for the questions............. Do we put the 2 gouramis and one barb back (even though they are iffy)? <Mmm, can... I would... along with a fresh pack of a product called BioSpira...> Do we try to continue to cycle with this tank as is if even one fish makes it and then let it go for a good solid 6 weeks before we even think about adding another fish as we should have done originally? <Likely a good routine> If all fish die do we put a new fish in immediately to keep the tank cycling or do we not subject any fish to this crazy toxic tank and clean it our and start fresh? <Perhaps the latter would/will be best for peace of mind> Thank you for reading this novel. This aquarium was not my choice, and if it had been or if I had been able to have any input, I would have thoroughly prepared ahead of time and hopefully sidestepped most of these mistakes. But either way, I can't stand to see a living creature suffering and I really don't want to waste such a huge investment financially and emotionally. Any help is greatly appreciated. Rea <Your husband... and the aquatic livestock in both your care is indeed fortunate to have someone as yourself... Intelligent, curious and caring... to look out for their welfare. Unfortunately by the time you discovered the ammonia issue (to be expected) in this small, crowded, ich-infested, mis-stocked mess... doing water changes to dilute the metabolite also forestalled/forestalls the establishment of cycling... Do please keep reading, culturing that husband... and put together a more sustainable mix going forward. Bob Fenner>

Ceramic media, & air pumps FW  -- 08/26/07 Hello Neale, I bought the ceramic cylinders yesterday to be used as filter media. I wanted to ask you how should I place them inside the power filter and how many of then I'm supposed to use? Should I also bury some cylinders in the gravel and use them to jump start an eventual new tank? I also wanted to ask you if using an air pump inside the tank is really beneficial or not. As always, thanks a lot for your helpful insights. Giuseppe <Greetings Giuseppe. How you use the ceramic media depends somewhat on the design of your filter. Some filters have "compartments" that you stuff with the media of your choice. If this is the case here, place the ceramic media in the last compartment (i.e., the one that water enters last of all) for best results. This will stop it getting clogged with solid waste quickly, allowing the media to perform as biological media better. If your filter doesn't have compartments, then place the media in a media bag (or something similar, like the "foot" from a pair of stockings) and stuff it somewhat after the mechanical filter media (again, so that it doesn't get clogged too quickly). There's no "wrong" way to use media, just more or less efficient ways, so if this all seems to complicated, just cram the ceramic hoops in wherever you can. The filter should have some instructions explaining this. You likely can't use "too much" or the filter won't go back together. As for burying them in the gravel -- pointless. If you have spare, buy another filter and put them in there. Otherwise, leave them somewhere dry to use at another time. The gravel in a tank without an undergravel filter is basically "dead" as far as biological filtration goes, and the ceramic media won't do anything useful and won't get significantly colonised with bacteria. Better to remove 50% of the media from the filter after a few months, and use those to "seed" a new filter in a new aquarium. You can replace up to 50% of the filter media from a mature filter and not lose too much biological filtration capacity. Obviously you add new media after you do this. This process is called "cloning" a filter, and it's how I set up all my tanks, and totally removes the cycling process. Now, as for air pumps: here's the deal. Air pumps don't put oxygen into the water. That's a myth. What they do is improve circulation. By doing this, de-oxygenated water at the bottom of the tank is brought to the surface, where CO2 diffuses out and oxygen diffuses in. That's really all air pumps do. Obviously, an air pump connected to an airstone at the bottom of the tank will be more useful than the same pump connected to an airstone that's bubbling away at the top of the tank. Do you need an airstone? Generally not. A decent filter should be providing adequate circulation on its own. This wasn't always the case in the past, where air-powered filters were common, but modern electric filters generally offer a lot of circulation. The ideal for regular community fish is 4x the volume of the aquarium in turnover per hour. For goldfish, cichlids, plecs, etc. this goes up to around 6-8x per hour, and for marines anything from 10x upwards is required. Your filter should have a "gallons per hour" or "litres per hour" quote on it somewhere; compare this to the volume of the aquarium, and draw your own conclusions as to whether you need to add extra circulation. Cheers, Neale>

Re: Ceramic media, air pumps 9/5/07 Hello Neale, I checked my q-tank values this morning and I found PH 7.2, Nitrite 0, Nitrates 0 and Ammonia 1. This means that the tank is cycling. How often should I change water and how much water should I change? Also, one of the neons is very tiny and doesn't seem to eat. It chews small pieces of flakes and then spits them. All the other fish eat very well. What do you suggest to do for the small neon? Thanks in advance for your help, Giuseppe <Greetings. Maintain the quarantine tank in exactly the same way as a regular tank, i.e., 25-50% water changes weekly. Obviously don't change the water if you're medicating, at least not unless the instructions say you can. As for the neon, it is normal for them to chew and spit, it's how they process large food items into smaller ones, given they don't have hands! He may well be eating some small bits and spitting out the rest. Regardless, don't stick with one brand of flake. I find having 3-4 different pots of flake food works best. Try and make one pot a vegetarian flake food, such as Spirulina. Alternate between them. Better yet, get some live daphnia or brine shrimp, or use some frozen substitutes. One last thing: flake food loses its "savour" quite quickly. After a couple of months it may be tasteless as far as the fish are concerned. In which case, buying fresh flake might help. Cheers, Neale> Re: Ceramic media, air pumps 9/5/07 Neale, I usually feed the fish by changing the type of food at every meal. I use TetraMin flakes, TetraColor flakes, Spirulina flakes, frozen Tubifex worms, freeze dried krill and freeze dried blood worms. As for the neon, I decided to return it to the store and get a healthier fish because all the other fishes eat very aggressively while this one does not seem to eat at all and it's very skinny. So far, except the weak neon, I'm enjoying the new batch of fish and I'm very happy about the Pristella. Have a great day, Giuseppe <The diet you're offering them all sounds very good. You will continue to enjoy the Pristella tetras -- they're very underrated fish with subtle colours, but lots of character and remarkable hardiness. Good luck, and since it's gone 8 PM here in England, it's more a "good night" than "great day"! Cheers, Neale>

Re: New 46 gallon bow front - strong support for fishless cycling method! -- 07/23/07 Hello Jorie, <Hi Robert> Thanks for the advice, I'll try out the fishless cycling. <I'm glad to hear that! There's lots of information to be found on this...try a google search and you'll soon find more information that you know what to do with!> Once that completes I am thinking 4~6 Gourami to start with. <Sure. My advice regarding stocking is to pick out the one species you really want in the tank, then stock the rest accordingly, based on matching environmental conditions, temperament, etc.> By that time my books will have come in and I will have read MUCH more of your website and others. <What books have you ordered? Hopefully a copy of David E. Boruchowitz's "A Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums", as well as the Bailey and Burgess "Tropical Fishlopedia" are both on the list. The former is a great starting-up book, and walks you through setting up the tank pre-cycling on (although, if I remember right, he does advocate using fish to cycle with, which we've already discussed:-)>, and the latter is invaluable for diagnosing/treating disease, when the inevitable does happen...> How about this time I send links to the plant pictures? http://www.doryweather.org/~rberry/fish/plants.jpg <Not sure exactly what that is - some sort of Spathophyllum perhaps?> And the happy Betta in his heated and filtered tank with a 2" Pleco hiding in the "cave". http://www.doryweather.org/~rberry/fish/betta_tank.jpg <Ummm, this is not quite what I had pictured when you said heated/filtered tanks, I hate to say. I was thinking along the lines of a 3 gallon aquarium, complete with wet/dry filtration, a 25 watt submersible heater, etc. Honestly, this setup is not conducive to fish; there can't be more than a half gallon of water. A Betta needs a minimum of 2-3 gallons of water, and the Pleco, obviously, much bigger than that. I do realize that the Pleco situation is temporary, but do get going on the cycling process in the 46 gallon ASAP.> So, there is the mystery plant from before. The closest I can come is some species of Green Taro. A bog plant which explains why it likes both above and below water. <You might be correct on this ID...> Thanks for the link, it got me pointed in the right direction. <I'm glad to hear this, and glad to help. Keep on reading, researching; you're on the right track! Best, Jorie> -- Robert

Re[2]: New 46 gallon bow front - strong support for fishless cycling method! Plus, unsuitable Betta environment... -- 07/23/07 Hello Jorie, <Hi again,> One of the books I have ordered is "A Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums" and the other is about planted aquariums. <Excellent. By any chance did you order the Peter Hiscock "Encyclopedia of Planted Aquaria"? That's a great resource...> Fishless cycling: I am at 1ppm ammonia and 0.5ppm Nitrite, so cycle is proceeding. <Sounds great. Nitrogen cycle should complete anywhere between 2-4 weeks; just keep testing the water parameters. Don't forget to check for nitrates, also...> Betta tank... the picture size is misleading I suppose. The glass is 22 inches tall and 12 inches across. With the rocks in there it takes about 8 gallons of water to fill it. <Better than it looks, I suppose, but still not an ideal setup.> <Regards, Jorie> -- Robert

The Nitrogen Cycle isn't Happening   7/13/07 Hello, WWM Crew: <<Hi, Pete. Tom here.>> First of all, you have a great informative site that I have found very useful and entertaining to read through. <<Thanks for this, Pete.>> I have recently got back into the hobby after an absence of a few years, and things have changed a little bit in that time. Anyway, I set up a new 55 gallon long glass tank about a month ago. It came with a HOB filter that filters 150gph (a bit underfiltered for this system). <<Sounds nice, Pete, and I agree that it's underfiltered. If the 'claimed' gph is 150, you can figure an actual gph of, perhaps, 70% of that, or about 100-105 gph. Not more than a couple of changes per hour. A bit short of what you want.>> I waited a day and then added 2 platys to cycle, and then I added 3 more about a week later. Ironically, the next day I came to your site and read about fishless cycling (dang). <<Well, Pete, now you know. :) >> About a week ago I put in a small piece of driftwood with an Anubias plant growing in it. Okay, here's my problem: the platys are, of course, doing their part to supply the tank with Ammonia, and boy are they ever. However, the Ammonia just seems to keep going up and up, and I don't think any of the beneficial bacteria is converting it to Nitrite! If I let the tank go without a water change for more than, say, 3-4 days the Ammonia will reach a *way high* 1.0ppm! So here I change about 25% of the water every day, which keeps the Ammonia at a rather steady 0.5ppm (still bad). And through all of this, my Nitrite and Nitrate levels remain at zero, as if the Nitrogen Cycle never even started! <<Pete, since you've investigated (or, at least, come across) fishless cycling, you discovered that one method calls for raising the Ammonia levels to 5 ppm via the addition of pure Ammonia and holding it there until the Nitrites are detectable. Fishless cycling, in its purest form, i.e. no additives but what Mother Nature contributes, can take up to several months. Though Ammonia is one of the largest constituents in our air, there isn't enough to speed this specific process up much more than this. While I, and your fish, commend you for the water changes, it's slowing the process. Score yourself some BIO-Spira (Marineland) and you'll be done in hours. (Don't you wish you read that first? :))>> I am rather confused by this and am having trouble figuring out what went wrong; every website I go to assumes that the Nitrogen Cycle WILL happen, and there is no "what if the Nitrogen Cycle never gets started?" section. <<Not possible for it 'not to happen', Pete. Fire a naked aquarium up and walk away from it for a few months, or so, and BINGO!, you've got a cycled tank, more or less. Now, don't get me totally wrong here. Three Guppies might cause an Ammonia spike, but the beneficial bacteria will have established itself based on the supply of 'natural' Ammonia.>> My filter has those biofilter pads for the bacteria colonies to grow on, and if I look closely at the glass by the filter output I can see fuzzy clearish stuff that blows in the current (small bacteria colonies or algae?). <<Or, micro-fibers washed from the pads? A bacteria 'colony' in the tank normally displays itself as 'cloudy' (milky-colored) water. Not what you want to see. Nitrosomonas bacteria won't be visible to the naked eye, however.>> And yet, my Ammonia remains sky high with no Nitrite or Nitrate production. The water is clear and my fish act normally, but I know that they must be suffering silently! <<Almost assuredly. Half of your levels can be lethal.>> I am stumped at this point. Surely there should be some indication that the Nitrogen Cycle has at least started by now! Am I missing something glaringly obvious? <<One thing, in a kick-it-around vein, might be to check out your pH levels. Most kits test for 'total' Ammonia. A combination of NH3 (Ammonia) and NH4 (Ammonium). At low pH levels, a 'high' reading of so-called Ammonia might be detecting almost insignificant levels of NH3 but high levels of NH4 (less toxic to fish). The reagent doesn't differentiate between the two. In fact, actual Ammonia levels might be next to undetectable (if tested for this specific) while the presence of Ammonium could be giving you your high readings. (Based on charts that I've seen, true Ammonia levels are almost ridiculously low compared to Ammonium levels -- depending on how low pH levels are.) Thinking out loud here.>> Should I just dump some Bio-Spira in there and be done with it? <<I would, unless you're really intent on the 'puzzle'.>> Please let me know; I am as curious as I am impatient about what is going on in my tank! <<Since you mention 'impatience', Pete, go with the BIO-Spira. Save the research/investigation for another time.>> Thank you kindly, Pete <<Interesting post, Pete. Nice 'chatting' and welcome back to the hobby! Best regards. Tom>> Re: The Nitrogen Cycle isn't Happening   7/13/07 Thanks, Tom! <<You're very welcome, Pete.>> As accomplished as I would feel if my tank were to cycle on its own, my impatience and compassion for my poor fish wins out. <<Completely understood.>> I will attempt to locate some Bio-Spira after work today. By the way, my pH is actually rather high (7.6) so I'm thinking that my Ammonia tester is indeed picking up on the bad kind of Ammonia (NH3). I am surprised that the fish seem so unaffected by what is clearly a toxic environment. <<As am I but, the water changes are, no doubt, aiding the cause.>> To my surprise (during yesterday's water change) I noticed several tiny platy fry swimming around by my driftwood. They feed and dart around actively, and hardly seem to be dying of ammonia poisoning. <<I'm not very often surprised, Pete, but this one does it! Given that fry, of any species, require optimal water conditions, it's nothing short of amazing.>> But anyway, this all seems a moot point now, since I plan on getting the Bio-Spira today. <<Excellent. You won't be disappointed.>> Thanks again for your help; I'm sure I will have an opportunity to investigate this type of situation in the future. <<Happy to help any time, Pete. Best regards. Tom>>

Water Changes Affecting Cycle, FW  -- 06/15/07 Hi Crew, <Hello.> Just a quick question about water changes and cycling. <OK.> I was on a forum the other night and someone asked a question about cycling his freshwater tank. The L.F.S. he had purchased the tank from had unfortunately sold him 4 fish at the same time as the new tank. <Common problem. Actually, depends on the size of the tank and the fish being bought. Four mollies to mature a 55 gallon fish-only marine tank would work rather well. But four mollies in a 20 gallon freshwater tank would be a disaster.> The person had to his credit, realised he was in trouble and read up on cycling. He had then managed to source a mature filter pad from one of his friends. <In theory this works very well. It's called "cloning" a filter, and it's my preferred method. But you do need to be moving the mature media from one tank to another without killing the bacteria by drying them out or shocking them water chemistry changes.> He said that he had seen a nitrate spike after ammonia and nitrite had appeared and was wondering whether this confirmed his tank was cycling. <Nitrate (and indeed ammonia/nitrite) levels are almost never the nice smooth curves you see in aquarium books. There's fluctuations to them for a variety of factors. In other words, provided the ammonia and nitrite stay at zero, and your nitrate level stays below some danger value (realistically, around 50-100 mg/l for most freshwater fish) then there isn't any real reason to worry about the precise value or how it compared to the reading you got last week.> I replied telling him that indeed this did mean his tank was in the process of cycling and it was a good sign. I told him to carry on performing his scheduled water changes, and gave him a list of symptoms of stress to watch out for. <Very good.> I told him to observe, and if he noticed any signs of stress, perform a large water change. <Correct.> This is where the question comes. I then told him that the emergency water change may slow the cycle slightly, but was not significant and was preferable to sick or even dead fish! <Absolutely.> I checked the post a few hours later and one of the moderator's had posted a reply after me stating that 'water changes will NOT AFFECT THE CYCLE'. <Almost certainly correct.> I replied stating that a large water change would decrease the available nutrients for the bacteria and therefore would marginally affect the cycling time. <Hmm... not convinced. The multiplication of bacteria depends on other things than just ammonia/nitrite availability, such as time, temperature, pH, oxygen, surface area of the media, etc. In other words, there's the biological law that processes are restricted by the thing in least supply. If the bacteria haven't had time to reach maximum population size, then it doesn't really matter if they have 0.25 mg/l ammonia to play with or 25 mg/l ammonia. Fundamentally, you're looking at a process that is constantly changing. The ammonia and nitrite in the water are the stuff the bacteria *haven't* had time to use. They're "leftovers" if you will. If you remove 50% or 75% of the water and so dilute these leftovers, the bacteria aren't going to starve. The fish are constantly producing more ammonia, and the nitrifying bacteria are producing more nitrite in due course. Think of it like a conveyor belt in a sushi bar: even if you take away most of the dishes on the conveyor belt at once, the sushi chef will be adding new ones all the time, so before long the belt will be filled up again, and the diners won't be hungry. They might have to wait a little longer to get the exact dish they want, but they won't starve.> He replied stating that the bacteria have a limited reproductive rate, and that a concentration of 0.25 ppm ammonia, would be no different than a concentration of 3.00 ppm ammonia, with regards to cycling speed. <I'd be dubious about actual values, but in terms of theory, this makes sense.> I decided to leave it at that as I didn't really want to enter into an argument. However I am interested to know whether I was right or wrong. <I'd tend towards agreeing with the moderator.> I have seen members of the WWM crew state that water changes will slow the cycle and was wondering if any of them have a reasoning behind this statement or whether it is from gathered experience. <Water changes are good, even during cycling, and are critical if you're cycling with fish. Anything above ammonia = 0.25 mg/ is lethal to fish, so you have to do water changes at that point anyway. Any possibly benefits of leaving the ammonia at higher levels will be more than offset by the sick fish. So while an interesting academic discussion, in sheer practical terms somewhat irrelevant.> I look forward to your views/opinions. Thanks and keep up the good work, Matt. <All very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Neale>

5 Gallon Tank... set-up, cycling...  03/25/07 Dear WWM, Thanks for all of the valuable information provided on your website.  I've learned soo very much! <<Happy to be here.>>   My fiancé and I have decided to have a small 5 gallon tank for our kitchen bar area.  We purchased the eclipse hex 5 (hexagon), set it up about a week ago and let it run with conditioned water.  Then we purchased two small zebra danios at acceptable ammonia levels as tested at PetSmart. <<The reason you had no ammonia reading is that your tank had not yet begun to cycle. It needs an ammonia source first to begin the cycle. I never recommend using fish for this.  Please read on WWM re freshwater nitrogen cycle.>>>> After having them in the tank for two days the water tested slightly high on the ammonia but I was assured that if I used the ammonia remover as directed adding an additional fish would be fine. <<Wrong.  Ammonia remover is dealing with ammonia you have in your tank due to it being uncycled, does nothing to improve the health of your tank, and certainly does not make it ready for the addition of more fish.  Large daily water changes are needed until the tank cycles, along with adding seeding media to the filter.>> We had decided eventually to add one Dalmatian molly and three male fancy guppies.  A pleco wasn't advised as its waste would override its cleansing abilities per what seemed the extremely helpful and educated PetSmart rep. <<Not to mention most get feet in length.  I don't know that your stocking is well thought-out.>> Anyways, the Dalmatian molly went in yesterday and today (after one ammonia treatment yesterday and one again this morning...as directed)...the ammonia levels are at 0.5 on the color card, which I've been told is on the lower side and ok. <<No, that's not ok.  In a cycled tank, ammonia and nitrite are ZERO at all times.>> In a few days, we are considering adding either 3 male fancy guppies OR two platys...not sure whether to get males or females. <<No more fish for this tank, please.>> Also, our one Molly is very active.. swims up and down against the aquarium often.  He (I say this because there is a gonopodium.. as learned on your site) shivers for brief periods so I've tried adding some aquarium salt...literally an hour ago so haven't seen any difference yet.  I had only added about a teaspoon previously but read that for mollies, more may be helpful, so another two teaspoons have been added. <<Other fish may not appreciate this.  Do reconsider how you stock your tank, making sure all are compatible.  A schooling species is not recommended for such a tiny tank. >> Please advise... two platys or three guppies?  Which gender is more appropriate?  Does this Molly's behaviour indicate we should not add any more fish?? <<The fact that your tank is not cycled is why you should not add any more fish.>> Thanks so much for your insight!  We look forward to keeping our fish for long and healthy, happy lives! -Lisa and Rich B <<Good luck with your pets. Lisa Brown.>>

Re: 5 Gallon Tank  03/26/07 Hi Lisa, Thanks for the prompt reply. <<My pleasure.>> We researched online at various professional websites and also discussed the stocking of our tank with three people who seemed to be well educated in fish, one at an aquarium shop and two at PetSmart before stocking our tank.  The only consistency was that danios, mollies, and guppies were compatible fish and that these three were the best for our sized tank.  We also considered tetras but found that they tend to bully the others. <<I stated no more fish due to the fact that it is not cycled, and commented on schooling species as there is not enough room in a 5 hex.  They are compatible, but the danios are not a good choice for this tank.>> We also have a biofilter which was supposed to get things going. is there a brand of seeding material you recommend to add to this? <<A bio-filter piece in a filter is simply a spot for the nitrifying bacteria to grow.  Seeded filter media from an established tank, Bio-Spira and large water changes are the only things I would recommend here.>> Also the first test did indeed show low ammonia, prior to placing the fish in...at least that's what they told us. <<No fish should be placed in a system reading ammonia.>> Im very disappointed in the reply as we love watching this molly and looked forward to giving it the chance to interact with one or a couple others.  This is the third fishtank I've owned and have always done well in the past without doing water testing at all (a miracle I guess).  Its amazing how much goes into this when your trying your best to do it right....  and yet Im still wrong after weeks of reading/researching. Sadly, LB <<No need to be sad, just get on the water changing/testing. Lisa Brown.>>

Re: 5 Gallon Tank  3/30/07 Hello again, I did the first partial water change last night (about a third) and the ammonia levels have dropped some...test color closer to yellow. <<Do these everyday until it stays at 0.>>   Will pick up some seeding material (Bio Spira) within a few days, and do another change tonight. <<Seeding material is something like a filter from an established tank. Bio-Spira is a great product too.>>   Again thanks for your help.  Once I get the tank properly cycled, would it be ok to add a few fancy guppies or a couple platys?  If not what would you recommend? -LB <<No problem.  I think a few fancy guppies would be a nice addition (in time) to your tank. Lisa Brown.>>

Re: 5 Gallon Tank 7/4/2007 Our water has tested at 0 for about three days now without the bio Spira. <<Without, as in you did not add it at all?>> I did two water changes (about half the tank) with new treated water. <<Wait a few days without doing water changes to test your water.  Be sure you are testing for nitrites, as they rise after ammonia.  Very important.>> Our fish already in there are doing fine except the zebra danio bullies the other danio (blue something).  The other danio is always hiding in the plants and anytime he/she peeks out the zebra chases him back into the plants.  Since this zebra guy is such a butt...would the platys be better? <<As I said before, a schooling fish like Danios is not a good choice for your tank.  Please do heed advice :).>> I don't want him/her to pick on little guppies...  Or would having three guppies (outnumbering the danio) be ok? <<Guppies are a better choice than Danios.  Try to get more females than males.>> Thanks for all your help... No longer sad, LB <<Glad to help.  Lisa Brown.>>

Cycling a Freshwater Tank  3/22/07 Well this seems to be a unique situation... <Well Kevin, Pufferpunk here, lets see if we can remedy this.> I started a new 75 gallon tank (freshwater) less than two weeks ago. Substrate, rocks, fake plants, water. Treated the water with Amquel to remove chlorine (back to that later) according to directions on the container. Waited a couple of days to make sure temperature and pH was stable and within target range.  Went to a reputable fish store, bought 9 Head and Tail Light Tetras to cycle the tank with. Put them in a bucket and added a bit of aquarium water every few minutes, then netted them into the tank. Didn't feed them for a couple of days. After some initial fear they now seem quite content and healthy. Now feeding them a little, twice a day.  I've been measuring the ammonia level every day and every day its 0ppm. I use a liquid test kit (salicylate based I believe). So I'm not getting my cycling going! Wondering if I put too much Amquel in to start and that keeps breaking down the ammonia? I have no other explanation.  Fish seem fine, but I'm not accomplishing what I want to do (i.e. cycle the tank!). Help! <First of all, it is not good to be cycling a tank with fish at all.  It is harmful to the fish & takes much longer than fishless cycling. See: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library/water-filtration/fishless-cycling/ The few fish you have in there will not produce enough ammonia in a large, 75g tank, to test anything.  When you fishless cycle, you can fully stock your tank when it's done.  You can fully stock your tank when you instant-cycle with a product called, Bio-Spira, too.  Also, you may have messed things up by adding an ammonia-remover, like Amquel.  Better to use Prime, as it detoxifies the ammonia but leaves it usable for the bacteria to eat.  ~PP> Thanks, Kevin

Freshwater lighting for tall tank; other planted tank issues. Not to mention, a plug for fishless cycling!   3/2/07 Hi there.   <Well hello!> I have a 20x18x30 47gallon column tank I've almost got ready to get cycling (freshwater), and the last issue I have is lighting.   <Yes, these taller tanks can prove challenging in this regard. I myself have a 44 gal. pentagon shaped tank that is 23" high. I had a heck of a time finding a suitable power compact (PC) fixture for it, but I eventually did.  JBJ makes a fixture that's 20" wide, and holds 2 36-watt PC bulbs. That's the best solution I was able to come up with.> I'd like to keep some live plants in it (6-8 plants maybe?), both at the bottom and at various heights on a rock wall I've built up. <Keep in mind that generally, the more plants you have, the less algae you'll have - the plants use up the nutrients before the algae get a chance to! But, of course, and as you realize, it's challenging to find the right plants for such tanks.  I've had success with anubias, Aponogetons, crypts and swords. For a great planted tank resource, check out Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants" - this will tell you everything you wanted to know (and more!) about proper substrate, lighting, fertilization, etc.> The tank came with a cheap light fixture housing one 16W bulb.  I'm assuming this will not be appropriate for any kind of variety of plants, especially ones at the bottom, correct? <You are correct. If you want to grow anything, you'll have to  upgrade to at least a power compact fixture.>   Everything I've read says generally 3-5 watts per gallon, and/or 30 watts per sq. ft. of surface space. <3-5 watts per gallon (WPG) is a pretty broad range, as aquarium plant lighting is concerned.  Generally, 1-2 WPG = low; 3-4 = medium, and 5+ = high.  The plants I named above (most species of them, at least) are all have low to medium-low light requirements.>   Obviously this column tank throws all that out the window I'm sure, but using that as a rough guide, I would need anywhere from 75-235W, if not more because of the depth, and I just have no idea what exactly I would need.  Also, I don't need to be keeping plants that require the most light, but maybe ones that are at least the middle of the road in that regard.  I'd like a decent variety to be able to choose from. <I understand, but honestly, it's a bit of a challenge.  In retrospect, I probably wouldn't try to plant a taller tank, but sometimes you just work with what you've got.  I can say that after 5 years of growing, the anubias is looking awesome, and has reached a height of almost 16".> The fixture I want has to sit on top of the tank (no MH or anything), and therefore has to be only 20" wide, which seems to limit my possibilities (I also only want one fixture, and don't particularly want to make my own). <You sound just like me!> These are the only 20" solutions I've found: http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=ES53111 (96W total) http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=CU01020 (80W total) http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=CU01012 (80W total) Would any of these even be close to enough wattage to work? <Actually, I wish I had seen those in my quest a few years ago; I've only got 72 watts and still, I've successfully grown the plants mentioned above.  Your tank is a bit taller than mine, so by my rough "guesstimation", if you go with the 96 total wattage, we'd have similar setups. If I had your choice, I'd go with the 96 watt one - the more light, the better, with such a tall tank...> I don't want to buy one of these only to discover after the fact it's still not enough light. <Understandable.  You won't be able to grow super-demanding type plants, but you should be able to do well enough with lower light requirement ones.  Also, do consider what substrate you're using, as that makes a *huhe* difference.  I recommend a product called "Eco-Complete" - it has the nutrients already in the substrate, so you don't have to mess around with layering different substrates. "Fluorite" is the equivalent product (just a different brand); the "Eco-Complete" is black, and the "Fluorite" is rust colored. Again, all of this is explained very well in Hiscock's book, which I recommend to anyone who wants to grow plants in their freshwater aquarium.>   Will I be doomed to having to use two hoods or having to build my own?   <I don't think so - just measure the opening you've got on your hood and match it to the product description's.  Many tank hoods are units are pretty "standard" as cut-out sizing goes...> Also, two of these units come with actinic lights -- I'm assuming I wouldn't want those with a freshwater tank and could just switch them out with regular bulbs? <Absolutely.  If you're doing two bulbs, I'd recommend one 7500K and one 10,000K.> Those 2 also have moonlighting, which I think would be nice. <Sounds very nice - I'm almost ready to buy one myself!> Anyway, any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you. Jeff <Hope I've given you some info. to start with. Best of luck, and enjoy your new tank! Jorie P.S. I hope you're planning on using the "fishless" cycling method...quite easy, and doesn't hurt any livestock. Just a pinch of fish food daily will do the trick...>

Cycling....  Where's My Ammonia? - 02/11/2007 Hello WWMC: <<Hello, Barb. Tom with you.>> Wonderful site and I don't think I've seen a Q&A/Forum site for fish where the answers have been so non-judgmental and knowledgeable!  That is GREAT for beginners like me.  The hobby is difficult enough without having others shame you out of it when you're looking for answers or help.  So again, thanks for being such a great group :) <<Thanks, Barb. Speaking for all of us, we appreciate your comments. We do, indeed, try to bear in mind that what we sometimes take for granted isn't always 'clear cut' for folks new to the hobby.>> I did check your search engine but couldn't quite find what I was looking for.  I set up a 30 gallon freshwater tank at Christmastime and started researching the cycle, fish compatibility, etc.  Honestly?  I became terrified to do anything. <<Understandable. Kind of falls under the category of 'information overload'. So many things that you want to get right and not enough 'hands on' experience to know that what you're doing is correct. We've all been there.>> I knew that just running the water through the filter would not start the cycle. <<For what it's worth, Barb, a long way down the road, the tank would have, in fact, cycled doing just that. Airborne ammonia is more plentiful, from the viewpoint of scientists, than most people realize. In reality, it's one of most abundant nitrogen-containing compounds going.>> I didn't want to needlessly harm or even kill live fish.   <<Bless you for that.>> I searched my area but could only find ammonia with surfactants in it for cleaning and no LFS carries BioSpira :(   <<Raw seafood like shrimp or even regular old fish food would do it, as well, though not as quickly.>> 3 weeks ago, I put my son's betta into the tank.  Alien Slug Fish (my son is 6) lived quite contentedly for 2 weeks.  8 days ago, I went to the fish store and picked up 6 gold danios and 2 blue gouramis.  Into the tank they went with the betta.  Everything is fine.  Too fine!  And herein lies my great confusion! <<Well, let's see if I can clear the confusion up!>> My father in law brought me 2 Master test strips to make sure parameters weren't too deadly.  However, they only showed PH, hardness, nitrite, chlorine, not ammonia or nitrate.  I tested with the first one on Day 3.  The nitrite showed at .5 ppm.   <<Bacteria have established themselves. No bacteria, no nitrites.>> I tested again on Day 5.  The nitrite showed at .25.  I did a 15% water change just because....  The fish were all happy and eating and not losing colour.   <<Sounds good so far.>> I became so paranoid about the veracity of the test strips, I took the day off work yesterday and bought a Hagen ammonia test and a Hagen nitrite test (the test tube type).  I checked the water yesterday afternoon, last night and this morning.  Ammonia has been 0 all three times and nitrite has been .1 all three times.  How is this possible?  Did the betta kick start the cycle when I wasn't testing for the first two weeks?  Am I nearing the end of the cycle already???  Did I mess it up completely and the fish are in danger?? <<As I mentioned earlier, Barb, a tank will cycle by itself. Not quickly, typically, but it will cycle. The Betta provided an additional source of ammonia which 'fueled' the population increase of the bacteria already present. In short, you actually added Alien Slug Fish on the 'downward' slope of the cycle. My guess? The region you live in has higher concentrations of airborne ammonia than might generally be found elsewhere. Regions near large populations of livestock generally account for the highest levels but winds can carry ammonia for very long distances. There are a large numbers of other sources of ammonia as well.>> I've posted on some forums and I keep getting told that the betta did nothing for the cycle as he's too small in a 30 gallon. <<Only partially true. He wasn't a huge contributor, certainly, but a source is a source, as it were. All fish produce ammonia so your other responders weren't completely correct in suggesting that the Betta 'did nothing' to promote the cycling process.>> But then, I also get that no one has a clue how I could have low nitrites without going through an ammonia spike.   <<The ammonia did spike, Barb. You just didn't see it. Nitrites are the by-product of the Nitrosomonas bacteria processing the ammonia. Like I said, no bacteria, no nitrites.>> I do NOT want to add any fish until I know this cycle is complete!  The tank was set up to home a blood parrot and 2 undyed jellybeans and being hybrids, I understand they don't do well in an uncycled or cycling tank.  Please help. <<Keep testing the water. When both ammonia and nitrites are undetectable and there are nitrates present, you're home free. Control the nitrate levels through regular water changes since the fish you've mentioned aren't particularly tolerant of high nitrate levels, either. Strive for readings below 10 ppm on these.>> Any and all suggestions or information is very welcome. <<I'd say you're in pretty good shape here, Barb. To keep the volume of information from overwhelming you, pick one area to research and concentrate on that. Lots of times there will be additional items of interest that are covered along with the primary topic. Just as a diligent reader will look up an unknown word in the dictionary, if you run across something unfamiliar, look it up. The more knowledgeable you become, the less intimidating things will seem.>> Thanks so much. Barb <<Happy to help, Barb. From all of us, welcome aboard! Tom>>

FW Shrimp <beh.> questions!... and cycling comments.   2/4/07 Hello to whomever will inherit this email! <Audrey> Six days ago, we put two Amano and four Cherry shrimp in our 10 gal. aquarium. They were all over the place for about a day, then apparently they found very good hiding places. We haven't seen three of the Cherry since. The fourth made its home with the Amano. I'll remove the rocks tomorrow when I clean the tank and see if I can find the three missing Cherry :-) <... Cleaning? Removing the rocks? I would not thoroughly clean such a system, nor remove the rocks> In any case, that's not my question. The two Amano had been hiding for a few days. But two days ago they moved out of their hiding place to the back of the aquarium. We thought it was a little weird, since that corner is more open than their usual hiding spot. Then, this morning, I found a molt (I was thinking their colour had been off, I guess this is likely the explanation). Then, an hour later, a second molt! Do shrimp usually molt the same day? <Can> I know from reading WWM that triggers can be water changes or adding iodine, but I didn't do any of those. Do you think that the fact that I started giving them sinking wafers (36 hours before the molt) might have been a trigger? <Could have, yes> (Hikari small sinking wafers, almost the same ingredients than the flakes we give the fish). Or did the move into the aquarium trigger this? <Much more likely, yes> I'm just curious... The two of them were, at least this morning, much more colourful and active since the molt. They've started moving about the tank again. I haven't been home so I haven't checked on them since. Now the colour is off on the one visible Cherry, and I'm wondering if it's not getting ready to molt too. I will get iodine next time I go to the very neat saltwater fish place in town (I love looking at their tanks, especially the inverts...). They don't carry it at freshwater fish stores. One more shrimp question. I saw in some FAQ that Sabrina was saying something about C. Japonica not breeding in full fresh water but other species of shrimp doing so. But she never said which species, and there's not a whole lot of freshwater shrimp info on WWM (I think I read all of it, and didn't find an answer to this question, even using the search box). So, which species of shrimp breed well in FW, besides Ghost shrimp? <Most all the commonly available species...> Ah, and one comment, for those who still doubt the usefulness of cycling BEFORE you put in fish. We had set up and planted our 10 g. aquarium on the very last days of December - no fish, some Pigmy Chain Swords, a bunch of Bacopa, two small Anubias Nana. rocks, branch, gravel and bio-balls in the filter. After a week, there was about .5 ammonia already, but I felt thing weren't moving along fast enough, so I plopped half a frozen shrimp in there, and watched it turn into hairy stuff, then gooey stuff... (can't get Bio-Spira in Canada). A week and a half later, after the expected ammonia and nitrite spikes, everything leveled off. It cycled in less than three weeks total. I'm amazed. I really couldn't believe it. Maybe some useful bacteria came along on the plants (???). <Undoubtedly, yes> And, with the live plants in there, even nitrates were 0. So, we put in some fish, two Mollies, as well as six small shrimps. Two days later, still nothing detectable - and those fish are pooping machines. It works! (I expect nitrates to go up in short order though, I don't have nearly enough plants to keep up with the amount of waste the fish will produce). While, in our 5g. unfiltered quarantine (but with a bubble wand - we had to get a new heater and will eventually get a filter for it, but we can't afford to buy everything at the same time, and the heater was more pressing), which holds two Mollies that we got at a less reputable place and were waiting before introducing into the 10g, we have to do a 60% water change every day to keep the ammonia below 0.5... (I have no idea how people can keep goldfish in gallon bowls for months given the levels of ammonia we get on a 5 gal. with 2 Mollies.) <Yes...> I'm now fully convinced: bacteria are a good thing, and waiting for the cycle to complete before adding fish is DEFINITELY worth it. <Agreed> And almost all this knowledge came from you guys. I do have some books, but I just keep re-reading the same info in the books, and it's not nearly as detailed as what I read here. And there are no "useful tips" in the books, just general rules. You're great :-) Thanks, Audrey <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Cycling a FW Tank  1/16/07 Good Morning, <Hi Linda, Pufferpunk here> I am in the process of cycling a 55gal livebearer tank.  I am starting to get a real problem with ammonia.  I have used the ammonia blockers and they have left the tank smelling very bad and now there is a dusty coating all over everything.  Is this a normal result of using ammonia blockers?  Should I continue using them or just rely on partial water changes and wait it out?  I also noticed a skim on the top of the water.  The fish are doing great and I want to keep it that way.  Currently I have in this tank 7 platys and 3 swordtails and 1 clown Pleco.  The tank has been up and running about 10 days.  I had to buy another tank because the original tank started to leak but I transferred all the gravel and plants from the original tank to the new one.  I just did two 50% water changes yesterday to try and bring down the ammonia levels.  I understand with the ammonia blockers that you will still get reading for ammonia but the ammonia is converted to a non-toxic form.  Is this what the residue is all over everything and the bad odor? <For future reference, it is best to fishless cycle your tank (do a search for this).  Cycling with fish, burns their gills, eyes & skin.  To instant cycle your tank, do an 80% water change (to remove the "ammonia blockers") & add Bio-Spira to your filter.  The smell is from the wastes in your tank.  You are preventing the tank from cycling by adding ammonia removers.  The bacteria that needs to establish in your tank, needs the ammonia to eat, so it can develop.  You should use Prime to detoxify ammonia safely.  ~PP> Thanks, Linda Ritchie

Freshwater Aquarium Water Testing 1/11/07 Hi WWM, <Hi> I just recently set up a ten gallon freshwater aquarium and purchased 5 starter fish on the 7th. <Too much too fast.> I was told by East Coast Aquatics to do a Ammonia Test in a week and a half.<Daily, followed by water changes for the fishes health.> My question however, is what other test if any should I do? And, how often should I do these tests? Thank you for your time. Brandi Stahlhut <The answers you seek are here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm .> <Chris>

Help with Betta and tank cycling  12/23/06 Hello, <<Good morning, Heather. Tom here.>> I have found a lot of very useful information on your site, but I need a little more help.   <<That's what we're here for.>> Here's the situation... I got a "free" Betta fish at a Christmas party about a week ago (they were part of the table decorations).   <<That's a new one'¦>> I took him because I thought he'd be a great work buddy and would be easy to care for.   <<He can be if done properly.>> Then I started doing some research because I research everything to death and realized that I was in over my head. <<I wish the person who came up with the 'Christmas decoration' scheme had done the same. (sigh)>> The first problem is that he is in a large vase (about 3/4 of a gallon) and the poor little guy (his name is Fred) is freezing to death at about 68 degrees.  I've moved him to the top of the refrigerator where it is warmer, but the temperature fluctuates a good bit.  I'm not sure which is worse... a steady 68 or an unsteady temp in the mid to high 70's.   <<Much as we preach 'stability', in this case the warmer temperatures are less likely to prove his undoing than leaving him 20 degrees lower than he should be.>> I have acquired a 5 gallon Eclipse tank for him and it is set up and running (although I still need a heater). <<Excellent choice on the tank particularly where size is concerned.>> This is where the next set of problems comes in.  I have done a lot of reading about cycling the tank so I understand what needs to happen there, but I'm not sure how to go about doing it in this situation. Should I cycle the tank with Fred (once I get a heater of course) so that I can get him out of his cold vase ASAP?  If I do this, how do I do it with the least amount of stress to Fred?  Will cycling the tank with Fred in there be more stressful to him than leaving him in his vase and cycling the tank some other way? <<Find a good store that deals in fish/aquarium equipment and buy a bottle/package of BIO-Spira (Marineland). (It will be refrigerated.) This product -- the ONLY product - will 'instantly' cycle the tank for you, which will eliminate the delay in transferring Fred. At the same time you can purchase the heater and, a personal recommendation, aquarium salt. Now, if there's going to be a 'tricky part', Heather, this is where it's going to come in. First, change out 25% of the water in the new tank adding a good water conditioner to remove chlorine/chloramine. (There are a number of good products that will do this unlike the BIO-Spira 'wannabe's' that claim they instantly cycle aquariums. 'Fritz-Zyme Turbo Start' is another product that must be refrigerated and contains live nitrifying bacteria however, it contains Nitrobacter bacteria as opposed to Nitrospira bacteria which is the prevalent nitrifying bacteria for nitrites in aquariums. I knew you wanted to know this'¦) Add one tablespoon of aquarium salt to the new water and mix it in thoroughly before putting the fresh water in the tank. Set the heater up to bring the tank temperature equal to what Fred's vase water is currently. (Do not yet raise the temperature to its final setting.) Add the BIO-Spira according to the manufacturer's instructions and remember to refrigerate the remaining product. Move Fred to the new tank and slowly -- over the course of a few hours -- raise the tank temperature to a minimum of 80 degrees. (I keep mine at 84 for what it's worth.)  From there it's a matter of good maintenance and feeding. As an aside, Bettas do well with regular water changes on the level of 10%-20%, at least, once per week. Again, this will require conditioner and a small addition of aquarium salt to maintain the ratio at one tablespoon per five gallons. A heaping teaspoon for each gallon of water changed should do just fine.>> Thank you for your help, Heather <<All in all, Heather, this isn't as bad as what you might have convinced yourself that it is. Seems daunting when you get caught in an 'avalanche' of information but all you really need is a few solid basics. Two 'thumbs up' for saving Fred and caring enough to take care of him properly. Best regards and happy holidays to you. Tom>> Re: Help with Betta and tank cycling   12/24/06 Good morning Tom, <<Good morning, Heather.>> Thank you for your speedy reply (hopefully you're in another time zone though and not up answering fish questions at 5am!).  I, of course, have more questions now. <<5 AM would be a little early but not by much. Actually it's closer to 6:30 AM right now. :) So, what do you have for me?>> I have done some dialing this morning (or rather I made my husband do it, at this point he probably really regrets encouraging me to take Fred home) and found a shop that carries Bio-Spira so hopefully I will have some on hand by the end of the day.  I totally understand the purpose of the Bio-Spira so I'm good there.   <<Excellent!>> Why do you recommend the aquarium salt?  I've seen some recommend this and some not so I'm wondering what the logic is.  Also, when I set the tank up last night I used Bio-Safe so I'm not sure why I would need to do a water change. Just to add the salt? <<There are a couple of reasons here, Heather. While Bettas aren't the 'delicate' fish that we tend to believe they are, their fins are subject to problems such as tearing and fin rot. Much as we may try to stay on top of water conditions you'll likely find Fred lounging around on the bottom of the tank from time to time. A little disconcerting if you happen to be accustomed to fish that display this behavior when they're sick! Since there are other than the beneficial types of bacteria in all of our tanks, predominantly located at substrate level, I use aquarium salt as a preventative measure. Additionally, though Bettas are a labyrinth species that actually require very little water in which to live, the salt does assist the fish's gills in the uptake of oxygen. As you might have discovered during your research, warm water holds less oxygen than cooler water does and Bettas do well in temperatures much warmer than the majority of tropical fish prefer. I keep my water level lowered so that my HOB filter agitates the surface more and, I've a small air wand for additional agitation but, frankly, I like the 'insurance' aspect against unnecessary stress. Finally, though I've read compelling evidence against the use of salt with freshwater fish regarding the elevation of the specific gravity of the water along with the inclusion of 'unnecessary' electrolytes, my own experience, along with feedback that I've received from our readers, is that Bettas appear less stressed and more active with a modest amount of aquarium salt in their water. As an aside here, I don't use anywhere near the ratio of aquarium salt in my 50-gallon community tank that I do with my Betta so I'm not touting the use of aquarium salt without what I consider to be good reason. P.S. The water change is, in fact, to add the salt. You never want to add it directly to the tank.>> I really appreciate your help.  I'm really trying to get Fred situated by Tuesday because we're going out of town then.  We'll be gone for 5 days, will he be OK without food that long?  From what I've read, it seems like it's better to just let him go without food than to have someone else feed him and possibly over do it. <<If he could, Fred would tell you differently, but I see no reason why he shouldn't be fine for five days. Bettas are quite easy to over-feed so I view it as prudent to avoid the possibility.>> Speaking of food, the table decorator did at least provide Betta Bio-Gold pellets so that's what I've been feeding him.  I feed him 2 pellets in the morning and 2 in the evening.  That's not too much is it?  I'll look for some of the other recommended "treats" today at the fish store. <<From time to time you'll see it mentioned here at WWM that a Betta's stomach is about the size of one of his eyes. You could easily reduce the amount Fred gets by half. One way to judge is to look at his belly area. It should be slightly rounded. If it appears flat or sunken, he's not getting enough food. If his belly's plump, you need to put the boy on a diet.>> I'd like to put just more than Fred in my 5 gallon tank if I could. From what I've read, it seems like they do well with Corys.  How many could I add without overloading the tank?   <<With Corys, I'd keep the number to three. Bear in mind, though, that Corys don't tolerate salt well so, if you've decided that you want to go with the aquarium salt for Fred, you'll either have to cut back on the amount of salt you add or look for other tank mates.>> I like African Dwarf Frogs too... would he get along with one of those (I would just add the frog in that case, not the Corys)?  I read the compatibility section, but I didn't really see anything about frogs. <<Fred should do fine with an ADF if you choose to go this route. These are a little more salt-tolerant than the Corys would be though they really don't need any if housed by themselves. I haven't run across anything that would suggest a problem with housing one of these frogs with a Betta and they appear to do just fine with the salt levels that I've recommended for Fred. Just to be on the safe side, you'd probably do well to cut back just a little. Also, since Fred will prefer to feed at the surface and the frogs, like the Corys, prefer the bottom, there shouldn't be any 'wrestling' for food, either.>> Thanks again! Heather <<You're welcome, Heather and Merry Christmas Eve. Tom>> Hagen "Cycle", Bogus?  11/9/06 <Hi Cody, Pufferpunk here> I have a question that I could not find but a few topics on.  That is the product Hagen Cycle.  I have set up a 55 gallon freshwater tank, with gravel and a tetra whisper hang on filter, rated for 60 gallons.  The filter has 2 bio filters on them. No fish have been added, nor will any until the tank completely cycles.  Anyway, my question was I purchased the Hagen Cycle before I read any reviews, and they all say its bogus!   <Absolutely, the stuff is total bunk!  It's nothing but dead bacteria in a bottle.  > I did come across a few reviews that said it was good to pour the whole bottle in to get a few bacteria going but that it lacked necessary ingredients to get it fully cycled.  My question is would adding the entire bottle, which I bought the smallest one, be a major set back to getting my tank cycled?  Also, I plan to add live plants, should I plant them before or after the cycle completes?    <Return that junk.  The only product that contains LIVE nitrifying bacteria to "instant cycle" your tank is Bio-Spira.  Nothing else will work.  You can also do a fishless cycle (just do a search) but that will take a few weeks.  If you do decide to go the Bio-spire route, you should pour it into your filter then you can fully stock your tank the same day.  You must add fish or you'll have to feed the bacteria with ammonia.  You can plant the tank before cycling it.  Might even help it along.  ~PP> Great website!  Thanks, Cody

Using established tank to put bacteria on new bio-wheel    11/4/06 Hello WWM crew, <Helen>     I was wondering if it would be possible to put beneficial bacteria on a new bio-wheel, for a new filter system, for a new tank, by putting it as a decoration in a tank that has already cycled (not making it a part of the cycled tanks filter system). This would be for say a few weeks and then set up the new aquarium. <Yes, can work... better to inoculate the "wheel" by hooking the whole filter up, and running it though>     Okay a bit of history. The cycled tank is a 3 gallon one, it had two fish in it, a Synodontis and a Keyhole Cichlid, <Yikes... too small...> up until a few weeks ago when I was forced to relocate a guppy into the tank, due to a fin-nipping fish. All of these fish are small. The biggest is the Syno. and he is only about 1 1/2" long. So, there is no hurry to relocate these fish yet.      Toxin levels are as follows:*     Ammonia - <0mg/L     Nitrites     - 0mg/L     Nitrates    - 10ppm *this is with the guppy in there for a week. *These numbers may actually be lower as I recently did a water change.     The new tank will be a ten gallon tank because it's the biggest I could get for the space I have. It will be using a Penguin filter. I can't remember if it's a 100 or 150, but it's the smallest one I could find (space issue). I plan to move as much as I can from the cycled tank to the new one, but do you think it would be a good idea, or would it at least help the new tank cycle a little faster if I did as I proposed. <Is a very good idea/practice> Much appreciate any help you could provide. halexander9 <You have read: can't seem to open here in Cambodia... but WWM FW really biol. filtration... Articles and FAQs files. Bob Fenner> Could you Please Clear up a Little Argument?! - 10/18/06 Hi! <<Hi, Laura. Tom here.>> My partner and I have had differing opinions on whether 'good' ammonia busting bacteria will still be present in a tank which has no filter, or do you have to have a filter for that bacteria to develop? <<No filter necessary. The only "magical" thing about the filter is that, if sized properly, it draws all of the water in the tank through it many times every hour. This "concentrates" most of the ammonia present in the tank at one point...the filter...which is where the largest population of bacteria will be found. Considering that the total cubic volume of a typical filter sponge is loaded with beneficial bacteria versus only the surface areas inside the tank, you can see there's little question as to where most of the bacteria reside. Doesn't diminish the benefit of the bacteria inside the tank which I must stress lest folks start going hog-wild on aquarium-cleaning day. :)>> Many thanks in advance for the answer!! <<Glad to be of assistance. Tom>>

Tanganyikan Cichlids Sick... Goldfish Cycle introduced pathogens... no-fun adventure ahead    10/3/06 Hello, <Hi there Erin> Well I've got quite an issue going on. I recently got a 125 gallon tank from my neighbour that keeps Discus. <Lots of water changes> I thought it would be a perfect upgrade for my Tanganyikan cichlids that were living in a 55. I set the tank up, got some live plants, and a bunch of feeders to help the tank cycle <Mmm, not advised... too much likelihood of introducing, entrenching pathogenic/disease problems> for a few weeks. All of my water parameters were looking great after 2 ½ weeks of cycling the tank and the feeder fish were looking healthy. I decided I would move everyone over and give the feeders to my neighbour for his pond. The water parameters were completely fine and the same as my 55 gallon tank. Good alkalinity, good hardness, pH of 8.8, <Mmm... too high> no nitrates, nitrites or ammonia in the tank either. I put them in and they were doing very well up until about a week ago roughly. Two of them began to develop a small amount of Ich, <... here it is...> so I began to treat it with a Formalin-Green mixture <Not in the main/display tank, please, no> (used it for about 10 years now with no harsh effects) <Formalin is a potent biocide... kills all life> and their Ich was clearing up. My problem now is that they have some kind of a secondary infection (I think) attacking their eyes and body. <... From your goldfish adventure...> I thought it was bacterial so I began to treat with Maracyn-Two which I've read is okay with the Ich treatment and shouldn't have any ill effects. Well over the last three days I've lost three fish, one being my 7-stripe Frontosa, and my other Fronty's aren't looking so hot either. Should I start trying to treat this with Maroxy and see if it's a fungal infection??? <...... much more trouble to go over here...> I don't really know what else to do at this point. Their eyes are all hazed over with a large white pustule in the center and white pustules in various spots on their bodies. I really don't want to lose my Burundis, especially my 15' one. I'm scared to death to even look in my tank anymore. Please help! Thanks, Erin <Well... let's see... you have introduced "something" with the goldfish cycling... Without microscopic examination, and possibly culturing, there is no way to discern what the root problem, causative organisms are here... Could be bacterial, protozoan, trematodes... more. I would move all the remaining fishes to smaller treatment tanks (and nuke/bleach wash the infested system)... and consider Chuck Rambo's treatment strategies for African Cichlids, posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/afcichdisfaqs.htm and the linked files in this series above... A hard lesson, and one I hope your livestock survives. Bob Fenner>

Clown Loach and Bristlenose Troubles... Actually iatrogenic problems, ignorance, lack of self-reliance... in killing freshwater fishes  9/25/06 Hello WWM helping elves, <Where's Santa?> I am having some troubles with my fish.  I seem to have a slow but steady mortality rate.  I have a 28L tank (sorry, not sure what that is in gallons). <... dismal. Look it up...> It has been up an running with fish for 5 months now, <... in six-seven or so gallons...> but there seems to be a consistent pattern that has evolved in regards to my fish and their lifespans.    We started with 2 goldfish, to get the tank cycled and happy. <A poor idea>   When our LFS man gave us the all clear (he is strict with us) he allowed us to get some tropical fish.   <With pathogens already installed by way of your goldfish adventure...> We have been gradually adding to the tank till now to get a nice community tank.  The 2 goldfish have been given away as there was not so much room as before.  We have 1blue and 1 golden gourami, a smallish angel fish, a bristle nose catfish and 2 clown loaches. <These are too much, way too much for this small volume>    The trouble with the fish is that we are now onto our 3rd catfish, and as of this morning I only have 1 clown loach.  For all 3 fish that have died, there has been a similar pattern.  All have stopped eating, then after 3 days of their hunger strike their tummies bloat, then this goes away the next day, then they die the day after.  Both the catfish only lived for 3 weeks, and the clown loach died 3 weeks after my last catfish. <Ultra dismal... I'm changing my mind, opinion> For the catfish, they just stopped licking the glass, and the clown loach took to swimming upside down near the spray bar pipe - constantly. <Environmental...> I have had my LFS man check my water for everything (I think he dreads every time I walk through the door), <I would as well...> and he says that my water is perfect for the fish that I have and commented that if my latest catfish died it was a factor he cannot test for.  To make me feel better, he has given me a slightly bigger catfish this time in the hopes that it is more hardy. <... the opposite here...> I feed them a combination of dried food, blood worms (once a week), algae wafers and a little piece of zucchini every now and then.  I do monthly water changes of 10% with good water, and keep check on the basic water condition weekly.    I am aware that a 28L tank is not very big, <Bingo> and am wondering if clown loaches are the best choice with the other fish. <Nope... poor choices...> I purchased 2 as they are social fish, but have read that odd numbers are better.  At this time the remaining one I have is small. Should I get 2 friends for it, or should I change the type of fish, or will one more be enough.  I will eventually get a bigger tank, so the fact that they grow has been accounted for, however I would like to know what is best for now and would first very much like them to stop dying. I don't know where I am going wrong, and would like some help before I replace my little one. Ta, from Cian <... Let's see... your real problem is rooted in the too-small world for the species you list. It cannot support this type of life, density... The Bristlenose Loricariids need volumes of three, four plus size to survive... Tiny volumes of water are too inherently unstable to provide proper environments... You might look into much smaller (ultimately) species... Next, your system is very likely infested with some sort/s of disease organisms from the goldfish period... Next, your reliance on others for the care you can only provide is short-sighted to use a kind term... Lastly, the answers to the "present situation" you find yourself the maker/keeper of are of your own ignorance and lack of research... Consider what you want to do, educate yourself, then act... BobF>

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