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New Idea For Fishless Cycling

Author Topic: New idea for fishless cycling  (Read 9856 times)

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Offline Sue

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New idea for fishless cycling
« on: July 05, 2013, 12:05:46 PM »
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I have come across an account of how fishless cycling started, and why the method invented then is not applicable today. As I found it on another forum, I won’t link to it but I will summarise it. It was written by a chap who has done a lot of research on the subject.

Fishless cycling was first invented in the late 1990s The method in use in these early days involved adding 5 to 6 drops of ammonia for every 10 American gallons (roughly 37.5 litres). This was imprecise as bottles of ammonia varied in strength.
The next stage was to dose to a particular ppm rather than using a set volume of ammonia. But the people who devised fishless cycling were advanced aquarists. They had heavily planted tanks and always seeded a new tank with media from a mature filter. They chose to dose to 5ppm, an amount of ammonia that was quickly cleared because of their plants and donated media. They did notice that their cycles sometimes stalled and put it down to having added too much ammonia. The two authors who wrote articles on fishless cycling at that time both later revised their methods to use a lot less than 5ppm ammonia.

Then the internet took over from the printed word, and the articles were no longer used. But 5ppm had stuck in everyone’s minds and articles that began to appear on-line recommended this level. The original paper articles that were revised to a lower concentration got lost in the rush to put information out on the internet.
The original level of 5ppm was fine for tanks with a lot of well growing plants and mature media seeding the filter, but fishless cycling was taken up by people who had neither. This is when problems occur with stalled cycles and so on.

At the same time that fishless cycling articles began to appear on-line, Dr Tim Hovanec and his team were researching the species of bacteria that grow in aquariums. Most of the previous research was done on aquaculture and water treatment, both of which have higher levels of ammonia and nitrite. Hovanec’s work showed that the bacteria which grow in aquariums at lower concentrations of ammonia and nitrite are not the same as those which grow at high concentrations.

So now we knew that the bacteria we want in the filter grow at lower levels than at first thought. High levels of ammonia and nitrite impedes then kills them. And at high levels the wrong species grow.
There is usually not a problem with high levels of ammonia. As soon as the aquarist measures a level of 5ppm or over, s/he does a water change to lower it. The problem arises with nitrite. Most test kits only measure low levels of nitrite. Once the reading gets to the top of the scale, it is impossible to know how much nitrite is actually in the water. With the old method, once the ammonia eaters grow and drop the ammonia level to zero, ammonia is added every time the reading drops to zero to stop the bacteria starving, adding to the amount of nitrite in the tank.
It is now becoming evident that these bacteria do not starve. If there is insufficient food, they go dormant. The ammonia eating bacteria do not need to be fed daily. This would allow the nitrite to only rise minimally.

The man on the other forum is suggesting a different way of fishless cycling.
Add 3ppm ammonia and test every other day for ammonia and nitrite
Once the ammonia level drops under 0.75ppm AND nitrite drops below 2ppm, add another 3ppm ammonia and start testing every day.
When the ammonia level drops below 0.25pppm and nitrite below 1ppm, add another 3ppm ammonia.
Repeat this last stage until both ammonia and nitrite read zero 24 hours after adding a dose of ammonia.
Finally do a big water change and get fish.

This method varies in a few ways from the traditional one.
It uses less ammonia, 3ppm instead of 5ppm
Ammonia is only added when nitrite falls low, not every time ammonia drops low
The cycle is finished when both drop to zero in 24 hours, not 12 hours



From what the chap writes, it seems that the reason cycles stall is because so much ammonia is added that the nitrite level gets too high. Rather than my version (where you start with a tiny amount of ammonia, topping up with a tiny amount whenever the reading drops to zero, then increasing the dose when the nitrite reading falls) he says it is safe to add no more ammonia after the first dose until nitrite falls; the ammonia eaters will not starve.



I wish I had read all this before I cycled my betta’s tank, then I could have tested it. Anyone thinking of setting up a new tank……….?

Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2013, 07:59:46 PM »
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Hey Sue,

Really interesting stuff!

I'm just about to start my fishless cycle for my 180l tank. I'm thinking I'll try this way and let you know how things go.

Any top tips before I start?  :)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2013, 09:03:23 AM »
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That would test this new idea nicely if you are willing. If I'd read about this earler this year, I'd have tried it with my 25 litre tank.

The chap is saying that the ammonia eaters don't starve as quickly as we used to think; they can go quite a while without food. That's why he is suggesting that the second dose of ammonia is only added after the nitrite level falls, while the original method says to dose as soon as only ammonia falls.
Our test kits only measure up to about 5pppm nitrite. The kits show 5ppm no matter how high the level actually is, so we don't know how high nitrite really is. And a high nitrite stalls the cycle. The chap's method keeps nitrite low so the cycle should go faster. He suggests that most cycles will only need 3 doses of ammonia to complete - the first one, then 2 more after nitrite falls.

Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2013, 11:33:58 AM »
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The chap on the other forum has now written a method for his new fishless cycling process. It goes into more detail that the outline he gave before. Anyone trying this method to see what happens should follow this:

Definitions:
The ‘full’ dose is the amount of ammonia needed to get a reading of 3ppm
The ‘maintenance’ dose is one third of the ‘full’ dose.


1. Set up the tank and let it run for 24 hours while the water heats up to the high 20s C
2. Add enough ammonia to get a reading of 3ppm. Measure it after 30 mins (to allow it to mix in) and check. This 3ppm dose is the ‘full’ dose amount.
3. Test for ammonia and nitrite every third day
4. When you see the ammonia reading under 0.75ppm and a nitrite reading over 2.0ppm, add the the ‘full’ dose of ammonia
5. Start testing for ammonia and nitrite every other day
6. When you get two consecutive readings of zero for ammonia add the 'maintenance' dose of ammonia (that is, one third of the amount you added initially)
7. From now on, whenever the ammonia reading is under 0.25ppm and nitrite is under 1.0ppm add a ‘full’ dose of ammonia
8. Test after 24 hours. If both ammonia and nitrite are zero, the cycle is finished. If they are not zero, continue testing every day. When the readings drop to under 0.25ppm ammonia and 1.0ppm nitrite, add another ‘full’ dose of ammonia. Test again after 24 hours.
9. Repeat this adding and testing until both ammonia and nitrite read zero at the 24 hour test.
10. Do a large water change, adjust the temperature to that required by your chosen fish, and buy the fish. If you can’t get fish straight away, add the ‘maintenance’ dose every 3 days.



If you have 9.5% ammonia, you will need 0.3ml ammonia solution for every 10 litres of water in your tank. But because any given bottle of ammonia may be over 9.5%, or because your water volume may be a lot less than the quoted tank volume, I suggest adding half that amount and topping up if necessary to get 3ppm. Remember to make a note of how much ammonia you actually add. A syringe is useful for measuring small amounts.



Edited for use of the opposite word to what I meant  :-[


IMPORTANT EDIT FOR ANYONE WHO MIGHT BE USING THIS METHOD BY 27 JULY 2013!!!!!

In point 1. above, I said heat the water to the high 30S. It should have said the high 20s. It is now altered. Appologies  :-[

Offline a_llusive

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 05:39:55 PM »
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Very interesting, and if I do another cycle, I'll try it. Unfortunately it doesn't give me a clue as to my current fishless cycling predicament http://www.thinkfish.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,445.msg5046.html#msg5046

I started off following your how-to, with a few twitches, and now its gone a bit odd.

Do the nitrite eaters starve fast - if so mine could get in trouble?

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2013, 07:13:16 PM »
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The chap who wrote the article reckons that both of them can go several days without dying off. At one time it was thought they died off within hours, then that they died at off at 10% a day. Now it is known that they don't die immediately, they go dormant without food and the longer they are dormant the longer it takes them to re-activate.

Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2013, 12:09:08 PM »
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Hey,

I started cycling my tank earlier in the week using this method, it reached stage 4 today. The ammonia was 0.25ppm and the nitrite was about 3ppm, so I've added my full dose.  ;D

I think my ammonia was weaker than yours as I needed 6.5ml for 150l-ish of water to reach 3ppm of ammonia. Also, even with the heater on maximum, I can't get the water any warmer than about 30oC. Is that okay?

Tasha  :)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2013, 03:10:09 PM »
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Tasha, I have just re-read what I wrote and noticed for the first time a glaring error. I should have said heat the tank to the high 20's not high 30's C :-[ Anything around 28 to 32 deg is fine. My appologies. Luckily most heaters won't go as high as the uper 30's.

I have edited the post in question.

Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2013, 06:07:16 PM »
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Hey,

Readings for ammonia on 29th and 31st both showed zero ammonia, so I added the maintenance dose of 2.17ml last night. I will test later and let you know the results.

Tasha :)

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Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2013, 05:05:02 PM »
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Hey,

Results on the 1st; ammonia was 0ppm and nitrite was 0.25ppm so I added the full dose of 6.5ml of ammonia and tested again last night. Last night, ammonia was 0ppm but nitrite had shot up to 2ppm so I will test again later and see what has happened to the nitrite levels.

Tasha  :)

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Offline jesnon

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2013, 06:50:41 PM »
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Hi Tasha

Looks like your cycle in progressing nicely, will be interedtibg to see how quickly it finishes too!

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Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 12:58:57 AM »
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Hey,

Last night ammonia and nitrite were both reading 0ppm so I added the full dose of 6.5ml ammonia. Tonight the ammonia is reading 0ppm but again nitrite has shot up to about 3ppm-ish [somewhere between the 2ppm and 5ppm colours on my chart :)]

Tasha :D

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Offline ColinB

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 10:43:35 AM »
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Coming along nicely! Keep patient  :)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2013, 12:52:53 PM »
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Almost there. It's just a case of testing every 24 hours now and when your nitrite drops below 1.0, add another 3ppm dose of ammonia - and keep your fingers crossed that both are zero 24 hours later.


Once you've finished, would you mind doing a summary? Just something like - added 3ppm ammonia on day 1, ammonia fell day x, added the one third dose day y and so on till finally both ammonia ammonia and nitrite on day z. That will give anyone else following this method something to go by besides my instructions.

Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2013, 12:49:11 AM »
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Hey,

Of course I'll do a summary Sue if it will help :) Tonight's ammonia and nitrite levels are both reading 0ppm so once again I've added the full dose of ammonia and we'll se what tomorrow brings.

I know I need to be patient but I've been browsing through the gallery threads looking at everybody's tanks and it's making it difficult to be!  :D

I need to work out how I'm going to scape my tank, where shall I post questions about that? :-\

Tasha  :)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2013, 08:25:39 AM »
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If you are thinking of live plants, that would be in the Plants section ;) Everything else, either General Advice or General Fishkeeping Chat. I would be inclined to go with the last - scaping a tank isn't so much asking what to do but discussing the best way to get the effect you want.


Then when it's done, don't forget the photos in Gallery Showcase  ;D

Offline ColinB

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2013, 09:39:28 AM »
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You might want to put the kettle on and settle down with a brew and look through this to get some ideas of what's possible.

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Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2013, 10:36:09 PM »
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Hey guys,

I need some help. I'm still cycling my 180l tank, today is day 33, and I'm a little confused as to how long this final part of the method is supposed to take (the testing every day and waiting until both ammonia and nitrite read 0ppm at the 24hr test). ???

At the moment the readings 24hours after adding ammonia are 0ppm ammonia and 5ppm nitrite and at the 48 hour test both readings are 0ppm so I add more ammonia then. I tested my nitrate as well tonight and it's reading at 80ppm (tonight is a 0ppm ammonia and 5ppm nitrite day) is this okay? I don't really understand why it's so high if my nitrite readings are still fluctuating.

Please help, I'm floundering a bit and am in need of your knowledge :D

Tasha :)

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Offline ColinB

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2013, 08:11:45 AM »
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Your Nitrate is high because that's not being removed from your water, it's always being added to by the oxidation of Nitrite by your bacteria. Your Nitrites fluctuate 'cos one set of bacteria are making them from Ammonia, and a different set of bacteria are using them up. It sounds like you're almost finished with your cycling but you'll really should wait for back-up on this as cycling isn't my 'thing'. The Nitrates get removed with a huge pre-fish water change so don't worry about them.


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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2013, 08:41:04 AM »
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How long have you been at this "add 3ppm ammonia, get 5ppm nitrite after 24 hours then 0 after 48 hours" stage? The chap who wrote the method said you should only have to go though this last bit a couple of times.

Have you checked your pH? I know I used the older add and wait method when I did a fishless cycle earlier this year, but I did have a pH crash which slowed the nitrite eaters more than the ammonia eaters.


If your pH is OK, I think I'd try adding the one-third (ie 1ppm) dose of ammonia next time you get zero nitrite and see how long that takes to clear. The problem with a nitrite reading of 5 is that it could be exactly 5 or anything above that. The 3ppm-worth dose of ammonia will make approx 7.5ppm nitrite, but that would show on the test as 5ppm as that's the highest the test can go. 1ppm ammonia will make approx 2.5ppm nitrite so by adding the lower dose, you'll be able to see just how much nitrite is there after 24 hours.

If you find that your pH is fine and that the nitrite from a 1ppm dose of ammonia is dropping to zero in 24 hours, increase to 2ppm and see what that does. At these dose sizes, the nitrite level after 24 hours should be somewhere on the chart making it easier to see what exactly is happening. Using the lower doses of ammonia for a few days will still allow the nitrite eaters to multiply, possibly enough to get zero nitrite from 3ppm after 24 hours when you go back to that dose.



The other thing you could try is a water change just before you are due to add ammonia. 80ppm is not that high compared to the add and wait method (where the nitrate reading often went off the top of the scale) but it is known that high nitrate and nitrite inhibit the nitrite eaters, and a water change will lower the nitrate in the tank.




Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2013, 09:21:54 PM »
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Hey,

I've been on the add and wait stage with the same results since day 10 of cycling, today is day 34.

I checked pH today, it's perfectly within normal values at 7.4  :)

So tonight I added 1ppm of ammonia rather than 3ppm so we will see what the nitrite is doing tomorrow.

One thing I keep meaning to ask is the large water change that I'll need to do before I get the fish, how large is it?

Sorry I keep asking things that probably sound really daft  :-[

Tasha  :D

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2013, 09:34:21 PM »
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The water change - at least 75%. It depends just how high your nitrates are. You want to get the reading close to your tap watre level.


We'll see what the lower dose of ammonia does.

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #22 on: August 28, 2013, 11:04:50 PM »
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Hey,

Tonight nitrite was reading 0ppm after adding only 1ppm of ammonia solution last night, so I've added 2ppm tonight and will see what happens tomorrow.

Tasha  :D

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Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #23 on: August 29, 2013, 10:00:23 PM »
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Hey,

Tonight nitrite was reading 1ppm  so I'll see what it says tomorrow and probably add some more then.

Tasha  :)

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Offline jesnon

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #24 on: August 29, 2013, 11:51:17 PM »
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It's looking good :-) don't worry about this stage - my nitrite stage was stuck for aaages! They're trickier than the ammonia eaters!

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Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2013, 10:30:41 PM »
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Hey guys,

Guess what..... its FINISHED!!!  ;D ;D ;D

I know I'm ridiculously over excited but it is exciting to me because it's my first tank.

So I have a list of plants and such that I need to get now to plant the tank ready for the fish. Shall I do my water change before or after planting the tank?

Sue you said a 75% water change didn't you? 75% of 150l water in the tank is 112.5l, that's a lot of water to change one bucket at a time  :o

Tasha :D

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Offline jesnon

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2013, 07:14:11 AM »
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Congrats Tasha! Cycling seems to go on forever, I was jumping about when mine finally finished! I guess it would be easier to plant during the water change, though adding the water may mean the plants end up where you dont want them!

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #27 on: September 09, 2013, 09:22:25 AM »
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Yes I did mean 75% or even more. It is the only time you'll ever have to do it. Hopefully. I do know how time consuming and tiring a big water change is when using buckets. Several years ago, I used a combination of Melafix and Pimafix for a sick gourami as I didn't know what the problem was. An hour later, I found all my pencilfish dead. So I did a 95% water change on a 125 litre tank to remove the meds as fast as possible.

How high is your nitrate reading? The purpose of the water change is to get that down to just above the tapwater level. In theory, this new version of fishless cycling shouldn't make too much nitrate - the old way, especially the version that said to add 5ppm ammomia doses, would end up with a nitrate level too high for the test kit to read. If your nitrate is not too bad you could get away with a smaller water change.



Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #28 on: October 04, 2013, 06:59:53 PM »
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Hey,

The tank has been finished for a while now and I planted it when I did the big water change. So today I went out and bought my first fish! ;D

I'm really pleased with them as they're gorgeous and seem to be settling in okay.

I have some pictures, where shall I put them?

Tasha  :)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #29 on: October 04, 2013, 07:09:25 PM »
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There is a section called Gallery Showcase near the bottom of the forum.

What did you get?

Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #30 on: October 05, 2013, 11:38:52 PM »
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I got some silver tip tetra, they're really pretty little things :D

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Offline Kirstos

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2013, 11:35:59 AM »
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I have just used this method for my 38 litre tank and its worked an absolute treat, thanks!  ;)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #32 on: October 13, 2013, 12:51:22 PM »
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Glad to hear someone else who used it. How long did your cycle take? I used a modified verion of the old method (usng 1ppm till enough of both bacteria had grown for that amount, then increasing ammonia doses in stages) and it took me 48 days. It would be interesting to see if yours was less than that - it's supposed to be.

Offline Kirstos

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #33 on: October 13, 2013, 04:43:58 PM »
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Hi Sue

Its taken about 32 days. I cranked the heat up to about 30 degrees and had the water line below the filter outlet so it 'rainfalled' down creating lots of bubbles. I dosed to get it around 3ppm. Its been fantastic. Now I am just being a bit careful and will ensure that it is 0ppm amm/nitrite 24 hours after a few more times before adding any fish just to be totally sure (also because it will be next Sunday at the very earliest I can get fish anyway).

I would recommend this method to anyone.  :D

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Offline Kirstos

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #34 on: October 23, 2013, 08:48:32 AM »
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Sue

Where did you find this new method, out of interest?

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #35 on: October 23, 2013, 09:59:33 AM »
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On another fish forum. I'm not going to name it because the forum in question gives warning points, then bans members who give links to other general fishkeeping forums. I don't know if the owner of Thinkfish does the same but I'm not going to risk it  ;D


The chap on the other forum is American (let's call him TwoTankAmin, or TTA for short). He is a follower of everything Tim Hovanec says. That is the man who discovered the species of bacteria that grow in our filters, and proved they were not the same ones that was originally thought; that is, not the ones that grow in industrial situations.
TTA did a lot of research into cycling and in particular all the writing by Tim Hovanec. He discovered that the main reason that fishless cycles took as long as they did was because high nitrite levels stalled the cycle. Most nitrite testers do not go high enough. The API one, for instance, only goes up to 5ppm. Once the level in the tank goes higher than this, we have no idea how high it actually is. The test shows 5ppm regardless of how high it really is, but that 5ppm colour was interpreted as meaning exactly 5ppm, so people thought their levels were low enough. Diluting the tank water needs distilled water and very accurate measurements. The cycle stalls when the nitrite level gets over 15ppm. The old method of cycling created nitrite levels much higher than this.
TTA also discovered that Tim Hovanec had found that the filter bacteria do not starve and die within hours as was previously thought. The ammonia eaters can go several days without food before coming to harm.
So he devised a new fishless cycling schedule, which I have shamelessly paraphrased on here, which limits the addition of ammonia to amounts which prevent the nitrite level exceeding 15ppm.

I used a variant of the old method when I cycled a 25 litre tank this spring. I knew about high nitrite stalling a cycle; I knew that the nitrite tester would read 5ppm regardless of how high it actually was; but I did not know about the ammonia eaters being able to go for several days without food. I used the old add and wait method, but dosing to only 1ppm ammonia. And I did a water change just before adding the ammonia dose evey time the nitrite reading showed 5ppm (easy with just 25 litres). Then once the nitrite level had dropped to zero 24 hours after adding ammonia, I increased the amount of ammonia I added.
This took 48 days to complete the cycle.

I was interested to know if TTA's newer method would cycle any faster which is why I posted it on here. If he had written it in time, I would have used his method to see what happened.

Offline Natasha

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #36 on: October 23, 2013, 06:59:53 PM »
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It took 43 days to complete the cycle using this method for my 180l tank. It only until day 10 before I needed to start testing the nitrite levels but from this point until day 34 they alternated readings between 5ppm 24hours after adding the 3ppm dose of ammonia solution and 0ppm 48hours after adding the ammonia. I was using the API kit so the nitrite levels were probably higher than 5ppm at some tests.
At day 34, I added the maintenance dose (1ppm) of ammonia solution to see how much nitrite was in the water after 24hours, the tests showed that there was no nitrite left in the tank 24hours after adding 1ppm of ammonia solution. I then added 2ppm of solution and followed the same procedure as the method specified until the readings after 24hours were zero for ammonia and nitrite at a 2ppm dose of the ammonia solution. Once this point was reached I added 3ppm and was back to the original method.
I think that if I had added 1ppm at the beginning and increased it to 3ppm by the method above it would have taken a lot less time as there was only 9 days between the points where I changed my method.

Tasha :D

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Offline Kirstos

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #37 on: January 21, 2014, 01:05:16 PM »
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I have already cycled my 38 litre tank using this method and have now started a cycle on my new 64 litre this way too! Its so easy and I highly recommend it!  ;)

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Offline Sue

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Re: New idea for fishless cycling
« Reply #38 on: January 21, 2014, 03:23:17 PM »
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I'm glad to hear someone else is happy with this method, as I haven't used it myself yet.

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