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Seeding A Fish-in Cycle

Author Topic: Seeding a fish-in cycle  (Read 1274 times)

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Offline Matt

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Seeding a fish-in cycle
« on: December 27, 2016, 10:51:40 PM »
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I put this simplified guide together to help me when I finally upgrade my tank and thought it best to share it with you all. It is a rip off of Sue's (thank you Sue) excellent and far safer, more detailed guides which can be found 'pinned' here: http://forums.thinkfish.co.uk/fishtank-filtration-and-cycling/
If you don't have a working knowledge of the nitrogen cycle, I would recommend that you read these guides instead.

What do we mean by a seeded filter? (Who is this guide for)
If a portion of used media from an established tank is placed inside the new filter at the beginning of the direction of water flow ('seeding' the filter), the process of cycling a tank can be significantly quicker, easier on the fishkeeper (by reducing the need for water changes) and (more importantly!) less impactful for the fish.   This can be achieved by removing up to a third of the media from an existing tank when adding a tank to your collection or when upgrading and shutting down an old tank by moving across all filter media into the new filter for example.

Here's how to do it:
Equipment:

•   The most important purchase for a fish-in cycle is a testing kit. It must include tests for ammonia and nitrite (test strips often exclude ammonia)
•   Seachem Prime dechlorinator. Like all dechlorinators, this converts ammonia to the much less toxic ammonium, though it will still show up as ammonia in the test. The ammonia eating bacteria can eat ammonium as well as ammonia so using one of these dechlorinators will not harm the cycle. It is also the only dechlorinator that claims to detoxify nitrite though even Seachem don't know how. The effect lasts about 24 hours and will protect the fish to some extent between water changes.
•   Finally, of course you will need some mature media from an existing, active tank in your collection. If you are returning to fish keeping after a break perhaps, you may wish to obtain some live mature media in order to complete this method, please see here: http://forums.thinkfish.co.uk/fishtank-filtration-and-cycling/list-of-members-willing-to-donate-mature-media-for-cycling/
Method:
•   The key factor in this method of fish-in cycling is to keep the levels of ammonia and nitrite low, this is made significantly easier if less is being produced(!) - see tips below. You should measure the level of ammonia and nitrite at least once a day. Your aim is to stop the ammonia or nitrite reading from getting higher than 0.25ppm by doing water changes to dilute it.
•   When you find that the level of ammonia has dropped to zero, continue to test for nitrite – the water changes must be continued till that too remains at zero. After a period you will notice it takes longer for the nitrite to rise, and you will need to do water changes less often and of a smaller volume.
•   As the nitrite starts to be processed by the second bacteria, nitrate will start to rise which is less toxic to the fish and is removed via weekly water changes. When the readings for both ammonia and nitrite have been at zero for a week even though you haven’t needed to do any water changes, the filter will be cycled for the volume of fish currently stocked.

Tips:
•   Moving any substrate, decor or plants into the tank from a mature aquarium may also help cycle the new tank slightly faster as the beneficial bacteria you are looking to grow love on surfaces rather than in the water column.
•   Keep you initial stocking to a minimum and use only hardy fish if possible which are better able to deal with substandard water quality. Once your tank is cycled, fish must be added in small batches with at least a week between, and only if the ammonia and nitrite readings remain at zero between additions. It is usually safe to add the amount of fish equal to a third of the body mass of the fish you already have.
•   You may wish to begin cycling a new filter by seeding it as per the description above and running it in a mature tank aforlongside its existing filtration for a period first as this will most likely be less impactful on both tanks provided the fish can deal with the additional flow.
•   Do not overfeed the fish.  Uneaten fish food will decay producing ammonia. The more food which is eaten, the faster the fishes metabolism is and the more ammonia they produce.
•   If you have a planted tank the plants will also use ammonia which may impact test results. Plants are also likely to keep the fish safer between water changes as a result. However, remove any dead or decaying plant matter as this will also produce ammonia.

Offline apache6467

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Re: Seeding a fish-in cycle
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2016, 05:24:13 PM »
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Thanks for the tips @Matt this will help if I upgrade!

Offline fcmf

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Re: Seeding a fish-in cycle
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2016, 05:57:56 PM »
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Hi Matt,

Thanks for this - this will be very helpful for folk, I'm sure, and for me if the day ever comes when a second fishtank becomes a reality!

I have a couple of queries in connection with some of the points, and some which might help improve it a little, if that's ok, just to minimise the risk of any of it being taken out of context if read separately from the existing sources.

•   Seachem Prime dechlorinator. Like all dechlorinators, this converts ammonia to the much less toxic ammonium, though it will still show up as ammonia in the test. The ammonia eating bacteria can eat ammonium as well as ammonia so using one of these dechlorinators will not harm the cycle. It is also the only dechlorinator that claims to detoxify nitrite though even Seachem don't know how. The effect lasts about 24 hours and will protect the fish to some extent between water changes.
•   Finally, of course you will need some mature media from an existing tank in your collection. If you are returning to fish keeping after a break perhaps, you may wish to obtain some mature media in order to complete this method, please see here:
•   The key factor in this method of fish-in cycling is to keep the levels of ammonia and nitrite low, this is made significantly easier if less is being produced(!) - see tips below. You should measure the level of ammonia and nitrite at least once a day. Your aim is to stop the ammonia or nitrate reading from getting higher than 0.25ppm by doing water changes to dilute it.
•   Moving any substrate, decor or plants into the tank from a mature aquarium will also help cycle the new tank faster.
•   You may wish to begin cycling a new filter by running it in a mature tank for a period first.

Taking each point in turn:
* I thought Seachem Prime was the only dechlorinator which converted ammonia to a less toxic form. I may be wrong but would be grateful if someone could clarify this. I also think, in addition to nitrite, that it's the only dechlorinator that claims to detoxify nitrates too.
* It may be worth mentioning that media which has been lying in a 'decommissioned' filter for several months/years is unlikely to have any beneficial bacteria in it, and therefore that the mature media needs to come from a tank currently in use to avail of 'live' beneficial bacteria.
* I think the final sentence ought to be nitrIte rather than nitrate ie: Your aim is to stop the ammonia or nitrIte reading from getting higher than 0.25ppm by doing water changes to dilute it.
* It might be worth emphasising that the substrate, decor or plants contain relatively little beneficial bacteria in comparison with the filter media - often, new fishkeepers believe it and moving the water across will be sufficient and not realise that the filter media is the most important aspect.
* It may be worth re-emphasising that the running the new filter in a mature tank for a period first should be done with some mature media in it to enable a new colony of beneficial bacteria to get established/started ie "You may wish to begin cycling a new filter by running it, with some mature filter media in it, in a mature tank for a period first."

Hope that helps but, as commented above, very helpful summary indeed. :)

:fishy1:

Offline Sue

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Re: Seeding a fish-in cycle
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2016, 06:38:13 PM »
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Your point about Seachem Prime is a valid one. There are many other dechlorinators which also detoxify ammonia. Because the use of chloramine in many places leaves an ammonia residue after the dechlorinator splits it up, most dechlorinators also contain something to detoxify this ammonia until the filter bacteria can 'eat' it.
However, Prime is the only one which claims to detoxify nitrite, the main reason it is so often recommended for fish-in cycling.

Offline Matt

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Re: Seeding a fish-in cycle
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2016, 10:29:21 PM »
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@fcmf
If you don't have a working knowledge of the nitrogen cycle, I would recommend that you read these guides instead.
The above is a really important point for this write up and so I will underline it. It is aimed at those who would have an understanding  of the points you raised of such things rather than at the new fishkeeper.  They are all valid points you have raised of course and so I will also make the following small amendments:

you will need some mature media from an existing tank in your collection. If you are returning to fish keeping after a break perhaps, you may wish to obtain some mature media in order to complete this method
Addition of 'live' and/or 'active' when referencing media.

Good spot regarding the sneaky 'nitrate' -  I blame the tablet I write my posts on  :raspberries

I also think your point about the plants and decor is good and so I'll make an amend here too.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Seeding a fish-in cycle
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2016, 02:52:10 PM »
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Great - all sounds good, @Matt.

Thanks, @Sue, for that clarification re there being other dechlorinators which detoxify ammonia - good to learn something new every day.

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