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Fishless Cycling
09-17-2014, 11:25 AM,
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KShuk Offline
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Fishless Cycling
I know there are a lot of threads regarding fishless cycling and I have read a lot of them, but I cannot help but think that I am doing something wrong. For the past two weeks I have been putting 25 drops of ammonia into a 50 gallon tank and measuring the levels. They have increased slowly over time and are now measuring between the 4.0ppm and 8.0ppm on the API liquid test. I recently started testing nitrite levels and it continues to read 0. Is that right? Should it take this long? I know it probably does, but now do I keep putting in 25 drops a day or should I cut that in half? Also, once I do get a nitrite reading (if I do) should I continue dropping in about 12 drops and day. If so for how long? This is my first fish tank. My aunt thought it would be a good idea to give my son 3 goldfish in a barrel with a live plant. She expected us to leave it out during the winter and take our chances. Hence why we got the tank. We have 2 dogs and feed 6 feral cats and I cannot have fish living outside in the cold and possibly dying. One of the goldfish already died and I would love to have this tank cycled before something happens to the other 2. HELP!
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09-18-2014, 06:06 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
If you have just started your fishless cycling two weeks ago without any bacteria seeding, then it is completely normal to have 0 change at this point. The first time I have ever done fishless cycling took about a month to see nitrite. I was starting to ask the same question at 2 and half weeks on various forums if it was normal. There is nothing to worry about. Just be patient and you will eventually see nitrite.

You need to stop adding any more ammonia. It is already at quite high level. When ammonia concentration is way too high, it can be toxic to even the bacteria feeding on them. So do not add any more ammonia until you start to see it is dropping and when nitrite start to increase.

I learned from first hand experience that the fishless cycling can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to complete if you do not seed bacteria from the beginning.
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09-19-2014, 02:46 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Welcome to the forum, KShuk! Welcome

First, it is perfectly normal to see no change at all during the first 2~3 weeks when it comes to fishless cycling without bacteria seeding.

Second, We usually add only enough ammonia to reach 2~6ppm concentration during fishless cycling. If your ammonia reading hasn't dropped, nor there is any sign of nitrite, there is no need to add more ammonia every day. Wait until nitrite to show up or ammonia start to decrease.

Third, to shorten the time you have to wait, you can get living bacteria products such as Tetra Safestart will jump start the fishless cycling process. You should start to see both nitrite and nitrate within a day or two, and the whole cycling might finish within days if you are lucky.

If you do not plan to get live bacteria product for jump start, you can also borrow a piece of filter media from an established aquarium. It will have similar effects as live bacteria product.

Fourth, if bacteria seeding is not an option, you will have to be a lot more patient. Judged from your current reports, it will take at least another month for your fishless cycling to complete.

By the way, what are you doing with the other two goldfish? Since you are cycling your 50 gallon tank, where are they now? Sometimes it might be the lesser of the two evils by putting the fish into a uncycled tank than to have them waiting on fishless cycling to complete in some even smaller containers.
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09-20-2014, 06:04 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Thank you both for your help. I actually have not added any more ammonia for the last two days. Yesterday there were still no nitrites. I still have to test today. So if I decided to use living bacteria I can still add it now? I was under the impression that you needed to start your cycling with it. If that is not true, I am going to buy some this weekend. I cannot wait another month. I know having an aquarium teaches you patience, but I am in NY and obviously the weather is getting chillier and the two goldfish are currently in an outdoor garden barrel. I have read that goldfish like cooler water, but in another month I feel it will be too cold for me to leave them out there and not feel guilty about it.
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09-20-2014, 02:55 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
One question, what filter system are you using? Is it running 24/7?

For live bacteria seeding, of course it is the most efficient to use it at the beginning to save maximal amount of time. It is not too late to use it when the cycling is no where near completion. The only disadvantage to use it later is that you have wasted the time before you use it.
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09-21-2014, 01:32 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
I bought the tank second hand from someone on craigslist and he gave me a Penguin Biowheel 200 and a smaller Aquaeon filter. It has been running 24/7. I turned up the heater about a week later based on a few things I read and plugged in an air pump a few days ago hoping it would help. I don't mind the wasted time but I hate that one fish died and that the other two could have already been indoors enjoying their tank. I will be picking up bacteria today and will let you know of any progress. Thanks!
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09-23-2014, 04:56 AM, (This post was last modified: 09-23-2014, 05:01 AM by KShuk.)
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RE: Fishless Cycling
I added the bacteria Saturday night. Today I tested the water and my ammonia is still around 4. Nitrite is 0 and nitrate is between 0 and 5. Does this make sense? I am assuming I still have to wait until the ammonia drops right?

Also, I saw in another post you mentioned using the whole bottle of TetraStart vs. the amount they suggest which is only half the bottle. Should I do that as well?
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09-24-2014, 02:30 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
You should have dumped the entire bottle into the tank as soon as you unsealed the bottle. Once unsealed, what's left in the bottle will quickly lose its effectiveness. How big of a bottle did you buy? It is recommended to get one that is rated twice of your tank size for quicker cycling.

Do not do any water change for the next 24~48 hours to let the bacteria spores to settle. Most of them will end up in your filter media where they are supposed to be.

From your readings, it started to work. Tetra Safestart probably provides equal amount of both types of bacteria. The amount of ammonia converted to nitrite was also converted to nitrate. That's probably why you saw no nitrite yet, because the little nitrite the bacteria produced are now nitrate. Give it a few days to see more changes. Be patient.
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09-25-2014, 11:19 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
I bought the 8.45 oz bottle. I poured half in on Saturday since I followed the instructions on the bottle and the other half now after I saw your message. Before I poured the rest of the bottle my readings were 2-4ppm for ammonia, still 0 for nitrite and about 5ppm for nitrate. I will test again tomorrow. Thanks!
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09-26-2014, 12:40 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
You have a reading on nitrate. It is definitely making progress now. Smile

Make sure you add more ammonia once it is too low to keep the bacteria well fed. So they will continue multiplying. Since you have seen nitrate, it won't be long now. My estimation is a week tops before your aquarium is fully cycled. It might be quicker or slower depends on the water temperature, availability of oxygen in the water, etc.

Keep us updated.
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10-01-2014, 03:04 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Today makes about a month since I started cycling. When I first put in a new filter it said to change it every month. Should I be doing this? Isn't the bacteria on that filter? Should I wait until cycling is complete? I haven't taken my readings today but yesterday ammonia was still between 2 and 4 and nitrate at 5.
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10-01-2014, 11:54 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
(10-01-2014, 03:04 AM)KShuk Wrote: Today makes about a month since I started cycling. When I first put in a new filter it said to change it every month. Should I be doing this? Isn't the bacteria on that filter? Should I wait until cycling is complete? I haven't taken my readings today but yesterday ammonia was still between 2 and 4 and nitrate at 5.

Never change your filter media. It will completely remove all the beneficial bacteria and restart the cycling from day one.

What needs to be changed is the activated carbon (if) your filter has it. As the matter of fact, activated carbon is really not needed unless you are trying to remove medication from the water after treating the fish for diseases or parasites. I had activated carbon in my canister filter as one of the stock filter media when it arrived. I removed it after its time was up, and I never added new activated carbon as there is no need to. No problem ever occurred.

For the rest of the filter media, do not ever change them unless they are falling apart. If your filter is slowing down due to debris in the filter media, you only need to wash it gently in a bucket of old tank water or treated tap water to avoid damage the bacteria colony on it.

Have you been adding ammonia? During my fishless cycling, the nitrate shot up really high fairly quick once it started to appear.
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10-03-2014, 08:09 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
In regards to my last post and your reply I want to make sure we are talking about the same thing. I do not mean the entire filter I mean the object that slides into the filter that looks cottony with carbon inside of it. Is this the thing you are talking about that does not need to be replaced? Should I just leave it in there even though it says to replace every month?

As for adding ammonia, I haven't added any because my readings were still kind of high. Today it is about a 2. Should I add? If so, how much. My nitrite is still at 0 and nitrate between 5 and 10. Does that sound right? Why isn't the ammonia dropping quicker?

Thanks again for all of your help. I will be so happy when I can finally have our fish swimming in there!
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10-04-2014, 12:54 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Yes, we are talking about filter media. Filter media includes cotton, sponge, activated carbon, etc. Never replace any filter media except for the activated carbon. Filter media is the place where most of your beneficial bacteria are. If you remove/replace them, you lose all of the beneficial bacteria and instantly crash your cycle. You can totally remove the activated carbon and add in more sponge/cotton type of filter media to increase the surface area for the bacteria to colonize on.

Since you still have 2ppm ammonia, you do not have to add more. If you add more, then make it so the new reading will not exceed 5~6ppm.
A lot of factors can affect the cycling speed. ex: Water temperature, oxygen availability, filter efficiency, etc.
Make sure you took all the readings correctly.
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10-07-2014, 12:39 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Is it a bad idea to not remove the activated carbon?

I took the readings again and it's still at about 2ppm for ammonia and about 10ppm for nitrate.

I had to add more water. Enough had evaporated that the bio wheel stopped spinning. I dechlorinated and conditioned the water. I hope that is ok.
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10-08-2014, 01:45 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Activated carbon is not necessary at all. Like I said, some people use activated carbon to remove the medication from the water after they have treated their fish for parasites or other diseases. Other than that, it is not very useful at all.

It is ok to add treated tap water into your fish tank.

I hope the bio wheel wasn't dry for long. The good bacteria can't survive outside the water for more than a few minutes.
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10-09-2014, 10:13 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
Ammonia is about 1ppm and nitrate is about 10. I tested my ph for the first time today and it is 6.8-7. Tomorrow I am going to add ammonia in the morning and test at night to see if it is ready.
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10-10-2014, 09:52 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
It won't be ready until you get 0ppm for both ammonia and nitrite at night several days in a row while you are still adding ammonia in the morning on daily basis. Be patient though. You are getting there. Thumbsup
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11-05-2014, 01:09 AM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
The tank was fully cycled and I did a water change and after a day my two fish are swimming at an angle. I tested the water it is fine. I also fed them peas last night and this morning there was no improvement. Help! Will they be ok?
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11-05-2014, 10:40 PM,
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RE: Fishless Cycling
There could be many reasons for why fish are acting strange. Don't rush to feed them anything, including pea or fish food.

I would like to know how did you put the fish into your tank? Did you put them in a plastic bag or a container and let it sit in the tank first? Did you add the water from the tank into the container little by little to let the fish get used to it? The fish do not like sudden change in water temperature or water chemistry. Any sudden large change can shock or even kill them.

Anyway. Try to do another partial water change of 30~50% without shocking the fish. Let the new water sit in the same room for at least half a day to have the same water temperature. You can skip feeding for a day or two no problem.

If possible, share a photo or two so we can actually see the problem.
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