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Brett_CR

Can't trigger an ammonia spike during a fishless cycle

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Hello all!

I'm in the process of  starting a new tank, after having had to give up my previous baby after a string of house-movements about eighteen months ago. Although I've historically cycled with fish, this time I figured I do things 'by the book' and attempt a fishless cycle. Having read a number of posts and articles both here and on overseas websites, I decided to try it with fish food, due to the difficulties in getting pure/non-cloudy ammonia here in NZ.

The issue I'm running into is that I've been dutifully adding fish food to the tank every day for the last six days, and I'm still getting no detectable ammonia. There are definitely heterotrophs developing, in that the water is cloudy, so I'm fairly confident that the food is actually decaying. If anything, I honestly thought I was overdoing it - there's a lot of food on the substrate, and the amount I've been adding has been a large pinch (far more than I would ever actually feed fish in a tank this size). The product is just the generic Nutrafin flakes.

I'm not in any great rush - I'd rather do this right than quick - but I figured that it was strange not to have any ammonia after putting so much organic material into the tank.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Should I just keep it up, or do I need to change tactic? I've heard good things about shrimp or shrimp pellets, so my next tactic would be to vacuum the excess flakes up, and start using shrimp/shrimp products instead.

 

Readings

Ammonia 0 ppm

Nitrite 0 ppm

Nitrate 0 ppm

KH 4.0 dKH

pH 7.8

Temperature 26 °C (increased the heater setting to 28 °C last night, so will be warmer by now)

 

Tank Profile

Total Volume: 69 L

Actual Water Volume: ~ 60 L

Heater: Aqua One 100W

Filter: Hailea BT700 Internal (2 x sponges instead of the usual 1 x sponge + 1 x carbon cartridge)

Livestock: None

Plants: Macrandra, Java Fern, Java Moss, plus a couple of generics

 

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Six days isn't that long but are your test kits within expiry still?  

Give the flakes sitting on the substrate a good stir up and see if that provides the impetus for an ammonia increase.

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Right, so it sounds like I'm being a bit impatient. I'll just keep this up for at least another few days, and see what happens.

Brand new test kits (expire in 2020, I believe).

I've been giving them a bit of a stir every second day.

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As a side note:  I used cloudy ammonia to cycle mine a few years ago.  The amount of surfactant added is very minimal and didn't effect the process, 100% water change before adding fish (which should be done anyway) and not a problem.  If the food doesn't work, give it a try.

A lot of what you read are from the over cautious who never tried it and are just repeating what they read from others who have also never tried it.  When doing research I didn't find one case where somebody used cloudy ammonia and experienced adverse effects because of it.

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Yup, Homebrand with the red on the label (still got 2/3rds of it left on the shelf). The cheapest I could find, figured the cheaper it was the less other chemicals would have been added since it would cost the manufacturer.

 

 

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I realise this is an old post but just thought I'd add that I've fishless cycled using ammonium sulphate from the garden centre; I just dissolve some in water and add it to the tank until I get to 2ppm, then top up with more solution as needed.  If there's any unprocessed ammonia when fish are added, I do a 100% water change immediately before adding them.  If ammonia is at 0 there's no need, but I don't let ammonia bottom out while the tank is unstocked for fear of starving the new bacterial colony.  No surfactants to worry about, and the sulphate part does no harm - I've read that it could reduce pH, but haven't found that to be the case.

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On 3/7/2019 at 1:39 PM, Brett_CR said:

That's a good point - I didn't even think to look at garden supplies! Oh well, noted for next time lol

Hey Brett, was wondering how this panned out. Did you get it cycled without ammonia or did you go down that route. I'm about the same stage you were and there's not much guidance on what to expect timing wise for seeing detectable ammonia with fish food. 

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On 6/13/2021 at 12:17 PM, Greg R said:

Did you get it cycled without ammonia or did you go down that route. I'm about the same stage you were and there's not much guidance on what to expect timing wise for seeing detectable ammonia with fish food. 

 

I've not been keeping fish for too long (5 years) compared to some other forum members on here, but I've never actually used any form of deliberate cycling until my most recent tank. My personal experience is that fish can be placed straight in dechlorinated water and start dosing stability. Do water changes twice a week (once a week is probably sufficient tbh). 

I am aware of the dangers of nitrite and ammonia so I do test my water before every water change in the first month. There was never an instance of any detectable nitrite or ammonia.

Now with my most recent tank, I tried doing a fishless cycle with ammonia and bacteria culture. I started with 2ppm ammonia and after two weeks of waiting the ammonia dropped slightly to about 1.5ppm. After that, there was no more reduction in ammonia concentration for another two weeks. I gave up at this point. The next day I drained the tank completely and placed fish straight in with new water. I'm not sure how much longer the cycle would have taken, but I'm certain that the fish food method would take much longer than starting with pure ammonia.

My honest opinion is your fish will be completely fine with no deliberate cycling. The tank will cycle itself in time with the fish. I've done it with supposedly sensitive fish like a German blue rams, cardinal tetras, and otocinclus. No deaths in the first month from any fish. All otocinclus are still alive (3+ years old), and I've moved them into every new tank I've set up to eat algae. None of the new tanks have been deliberately cycled. 1 Ram dead at 2 years so probably old age. I can't remember clearly but I think 2 cardinal tetras died within half a year. Unlikely to be due to cycling issues at 6 months in.

I understand the science behind cycling so I'm sure it works and is a good mechanism to prevent ammonia from harming fish. So the purpose of my post here is not to discourage you from cycling, but just to share my personal experience and to let you know that my fish are very healthy despite me never having cycled a single tank before 😁

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On 6/13/2021 at 12:17 PM, Greg R said:

Hey Brett, was wondering how this panned out. Did you get it cycled without ammonia or did you go down that route. I'm about the same stage you were and there's not much guidance on what to expect timing wise for seeing detectable ammonia with fish food. 

Hi all,

Wow, I'd totally forgotten about this thread!

The answer is it did and it didn't. The tank did, of course, cycle eventually, but continued to be a _disaster_ with random die-offs and algae, until I figured out it was silicates leaching out of the substrate (so probably not the cycling, to be fair).

Moved everything over to a new, larger tank with more inert gravel, only to have it split a seam. The poor fish are now in their -third- tank, which is actually going pretty well, to be fair. 

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