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Started Fishless Cycle

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Offline Andy64

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Started fishless cycle
« on: July 29, 2018, 11:04:22 AM »
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Hi, I have started the fishless cycle of my 200 LTR aquarium, I added 4ml of ammonia three days ago and ammonia ppm was around 4 - 5 , I added another 3ml of ammonia today and ppm is the same and there is no nitrite reading ? is this normal ? This is the first time I have done a fishless cycle so have nothing to compare it to   :-\ ,

Offline Fishbeard

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2018, 11:25:17 AM »
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There's a very good guide to fishless cycling stickied at the top of this section. If you follow it, you won't go far wrong.

As you're only three days in to your cycle, I'm not too surprised by your results. It can take a bit of time for the cycle to start up - the guide here doesn't give a time scale, but just a pattern of adding ammonia, testing, then waiting. Once your tests start to show a reduction in ammonia and an increase in nitrite then you're on your way, but you're only just starting the cycle, so don't worry too much.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2018, 11:46:53 AM »
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Hi, thanks for the reply, yeah I am following it, because it says test for nitrites I sort of expected there to be some indication that nitrites would be present. I am only a few days in, so will calm down and be patient  :)

Offline fcmf

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2018, 12:04:38 PM »
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I definitely wouldn't be overly concerned - eg https://forums.thinkfish.co.uk/fishtank-filtration-and-cycling/cycling-fish-tank-10-days-in-tet-figures-not-really-moving/msg8146/#msg8146

I see, from a previous post of yours, that you have very soft water. Sometimes this can pose difficulty in a fishless cycle and bicarbonate of soda is required to avoid the cycle from stalling (which I think happened in my own case - my water is even softer than yours). I think it's too early at this stage to judge whether you need that or not, but those with more extensive and recent experience of fishless cycles, and especially with soft water, might be able to help you out with this better than I can.

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2018, 12:33:50 PM »
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What was the ammonia reading before adding the second dose? It should be below 0.75 ppm before adding any more ammonia.
Also, I would do a water change to get the ammonia level down to 3 ppm. if you add too much ammonia it will make so much nitrite that the cycle will stall.

Have you used any mature media to kick start the cycle? That sometimes results in ammonia dropping low but no nitrite appearing.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2018, 12:48:21 PM »
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Oh dear i have read it wrong  :yikes: i thought it meant on the third day after adding more ammonia, test for ammonia and nitrites ............ Anyway i would say ammonia reading was around two when testing this morning I added another 3ml of ammonia , I now realise that i shouldn't have done that and I should have waited for it to drop to 0.75ppm. Tests I have just done are : ammonia 4ppm, nitrites 0 and PH 7.5  .

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2018, 02:17:39 PM »
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Put it down to my poor skills at explaining  :)

Yes, continue testing every third day until ammonia has dropped below 0.75. By then, nitrite should be over 2 ppm. Because of their molecular weights (or whatever that's called these days) 1 ppm ammonia is turned into 2.6 ppm nitrite.
When I did a fishless cycle, I did find that the ammonia reading sort of wandered about a bit until nitrite started to show up, then it dropped quite quickly. Unlike nice chemical reactions which follow nice predictable paths, we are dealing with biological entities which never stick to the path properly  :)

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2018, 03:32:36 PM »
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Not at all Sue, it makes complete sense now I've read it again  ;D. I`ll do a partial water change and see if I can get the ppm level to 3 ppm. At least i`m on the right track now  :)) . Thank you for the advice.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2018, 11:38:20 AM »
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Still around 3 - 4 ppm ammonia and no sign of nitrite , just over a week in now. I have turned the heater up full , I read somewhere that this can help the process, but got to say it's worse than watching paint dry  :))

Offline Matt

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2018, 01:41:04 PM »
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It can be frustratingly slow...

Is there any chance you can get some mature media from somewhere? That would really speed things up!

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2018, 02:21:19 PM »
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My fishless cycle did nothing till day 26  :o

Do you have soft or hard water? If it soft you probably also have low KH. Let us know if it is soft as there are things you can do.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2018, 02:24:10 PM »
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In a previous post, Andy64 mentions his water hardness as 50 CaC03 mg/l or dH 2.83. Over to you, @Sue, to explain the bicarbonate of soda aspect as you have more experience of it / explaining it than I do.  ;D


Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2018, 02:47:20 PM »
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I had missed that, thank you fcmf.

There are two aspects to low KH - and KH is a measure of the amount of carbonate and bicarbonate in tap water.
Firstly, the bacteria need inorganic carbon to grow at an optimum rate. Inorganic carbon is basically carbonates and bicarbonates.
Second, fishless cycling makes a lot of nitrite and then nitrate. Both of these are acidic. The substances that make up KH react with these acids to stop the pH falling. If KH is high, there is no problem but if KH is low it will all get used up leaving nothing to stop the pH falling. With my first fishless cycle and KH of just 3, I had a pH crash - the pH dropped off the bottom of the scale. This stalls the cycle as the bacteria stop multiplying below pH about 6.5

The solution is to either do a lot of water changes, redosing ammonia to the level it was before the water change; or add bicarbonate of soda. This is found in small plastic tubs in the home baking section of the supermarket - there may already be some in your kitchen cupboards.
Add some bicarb to a bit of water and when it has all dissolved, pour it into the tank. I used it at the rate of 1 level 5 ml spoon in 25 litres. It will also cause your pH to go up which is not a problem as the bacteria multiply faster at higher pH.
Test pH every time you test ammonia & nitrite so you'll be able to pick up a potential pH crash before it happens.

At the end of a fishless cycle you do a big water change to remove all the nitrate made during the cycle. If you remove as much water as possible, this will also remove virtually all the bicarbonate of soda. Once there are fish in the tank you'll be doing 50% weekly water changes which will top up the natural KH. The pH may drift slightly lower between water changes but the water changes will prevent a pH crash.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2018, 03:18:25 PM »
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Thank you everyone for all the help and advice, it really is appreciated  :). Yes I do have soft water , unfortunately I don't think I can get any mature media from anywhere ?. I will check my KH , I do have the testing kit , so will let you know very soon,  :)

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2018, 03:29:29 PM »
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KH seems very low, put one drop in and the sample turned blue as it should, second drop turned the sample to a very light yellow. According to my test kit the value is 1 dh , ideal value should be 6 dh. I will look in the cupboard for the bicarb and add some to the water.

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2018, 03:55:20 PM »
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Try starting at the rate of 1 x 5ml spoon for every 25 litres tank water. As long as that takes the KH above around 6 it should be OK. But keep a regular eye on the pH.


Ignore what the test kit says about an ideal value. For pH, GH and KH there is no ideal; your tap water is what it is. You just need to buy fish that have a GH requirement the same as your tap water GH. What is ideal for soft water fish is very much not ideal for hard water fish!

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2018, 06:23:47 PM »
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OK, I have added around 5 teaspoons of bicarb and this has raised the KH to 7 , the PH has raised slightly to 8,
this is according to the test chart . I am using the Aquarium Lab, NT labs kit.

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2018, 06:42:48 PM »
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That should stop a pH crash  :)

When you do the big water change at the end, you'll reset KH and pH back to tap levels.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2018, 07:30:11 PM »
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Thanks for all the advice  :) , i'll test again in a couple of days.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2018, 08:00:02 PM »
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Ever since I have put the bicarbonate of soda in the tank it has taken on a cloudy appearance, is this normal ? and will it eventually clear ?

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2018, 08:04:59 PM »
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Yes it is normal. It may clear during cycling or it may not. But after you've done the big water change once the cycle is finished, that will remove all the cloudiness ready for fish.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2018, 05:03:45 PM »
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Thank you for all your help, it is much appreciated  :)

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #22 on: August 12, 2018, 01:23:43 PM »
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Two and a half weeks in to the fishless cycle and not a lot seems to be happening. Ammonia remains around 2ppm ( I think, it`s difficult to tell going off the chart ?), there is no nitrite present. I understand  this can take a while, I`ll have to prepare myself for the day the nitrite turns up because I might pass out with excitement ;D

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #23 on: August 12, 2018, 01:57:46 PM »
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That's just how I felt when it happened. I was beginning to give up hope  ;D It took 4 weeks for me.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #24 on: August 12, 2018, 07:29:05 PM »
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I have a sand substrate in the tank , I want a shoal of corys and understand that they love sand  :). If I put some live plants in the tank, how much will this help the cycle, if at all. I have a couple of nice silk plants in there at the moment which look very nice, is it Ok to mix live plants as well ?.

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #25 on: August 12, 2018, 07:36:19 PM »
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It is fine to mix silk and live plants.

Live plants use ammonia as their preferred source of nitrogen, but it takes a lot of fast growing plants to remove all the ammonia made by fish. Floating plants are particularly good because they are close to the tank lights and can take up carbon dioxide from the air, so they process ammonia faster than submerged plants.
If you plan on just a few live plants you will still need to grow a lot of bacteria to remove ammonia, the plants won't be able to do it all.


And yes, cories do love sand. They feed by taking a mouthful of sand and sifting it for morsels of food then expelling the sand through their gills. Just about all bottom dwelling fish are better on sand.

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #26 on: August 13, 2018, 12:19:04 AM »
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@Sue can live plants handle the 3ppm ammonia required for cycling the tank?

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2018, 09:05:44 AM »
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I know that 3 ppm is more ammonia than a sensibly stocked tank makes in 24 hours. The reasoning is that if we grow enough bacteria to remove 3 ppm, we'll have more than enough to fully stock the tank as soon as the cycle finishes. Note I said 'sensibly stocked' - it won't be enough for a very over stocked tank like some Rift Lake cichlid tanks you see :)

Plants take up ammonia faster than bacteria so a well planted tank will not grow as many bacteria as a tank with only fake plants. Some bacteria will grow but only slowly.
If fish are added slowly, a few at a time, to a tank well planted with fast growing plants, and the water quality tested daily, there is no need to cycle a tank before getting fish. Some bacteria will grow slowly as more fish are added. The important words are 'add fish a few at a time' and 'well planted' and 'fast growing'. Adding half the proposed stock at one go with 2 slow growing java ferns will not work!


So the answer to your question is - it depends  ;D It depends on how many plants and what type. But yes, a tank with a fair number of fast growing plants does not need to be cycled and will remove all the ammonia made by a tank of fish. As for whether that is actually 3 ppm, it is probably a bit less than that.

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2018, 12:50:16 PM »
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Sorry I wasn't clear in my previous... I mean will it be harmful for the plants to be in a 3ppm ammonia solution?

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2018, 01:21:42 PM »
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Sorry, misunderstood  :-[

Yes, 3 ppm ammonia is harmful to a lot of plants. Either do a fishless cycle then plant the tank after it has finished, or plants the tank and use them to do a silent cycle.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #30 on: August 15, 2018, 08:32:51 PM »
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I believe I may have nitrites after testing this evening. It is showing a very light hint of pink which will be 0.5 on my chart. Ammonia is still showing around 2 or just below. I have noticed what looks like spots of algae on the sand substrate, is this a sign of anything good ?? or bad ??.

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #31 on: August 15, 2018, 08:41:55 PM »
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Algae is common in cycling tanks, particularly if you have the tank lights on. It's because of all that ammonia. The commonest algae during cycling is diatoms. These look like brownish dust which is easily wiped off. The good news is that once the cycle is finished it usually goes away. Slowly.
It is because we add ammonia as one big dose instead of tiny amounts every minute of every day like when there are fish in the tank. And it just stays there until the ammonia eaters have grown.

Keep testing every third day until nitrite is over 2 and ammonia under 0.75  :) If nitrite is beginnig to show it should shoot up quite quickly.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #32 on: August 15, 2018, 09:18:01 PM »
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Thank you for the info Sue, yes you are dead right, the algae looks like brown spots of dust :) , i'll just continue the waiting game but at least i have a small change in the cycle.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #33 on: August 19, 2018, 08:41:17 PM »
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Three and a half weeks in now and the nitrites i thought I'd seen have disappeared  ::), ammonia is between 1 and 2 , could be lower it's hard to be certain. There are no nitrites or nitrates. I'm hoping something will happen soon , I'm starting to think that actually there is no such thing as nitrites   :))

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #34 on: August 19, 2018, 09:03:59 PM »
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Don't worry, I've been there and it is incredibly frustrating  ;D I was beginning to wonder if my ammonia was evaporating out of the tank until nitrite started to show up.

How is the pH - is it above 6.5?

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #35 on: August 19, 2018, 09:19:06 PM »
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Hi Sue, yes it is frustrating  ;D I think i'll throw a nitrite party when they appear  :)) . PH looks fine it's around 7.5 - 8 .

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #36 on: August 20, 2018, 07:28:40 AM »
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Keep going @Andy64
Tank cycling is frustrating, though I think a nitrite party is a great idea   :cheers:

Offline TopCookie

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #37 on: August 20, 2018, 12:03:11 PM »
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You'll get there Andy, and before you know it, struggling with with the cycle will be a distant memory...  :)

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #38 on: August 22, 2018, 10:21:06 PM »
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I have nitrites  :cheers: think it's four weeks today , i would say 0.5 on my chart but they are definitely there  :) Ammonia is still around 1. I shall wait now and hopefully the nitrates will spike soon and the ammonia will drop a little more. 

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #39 on: August 23, 2018, 04:25:12 AM »
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I have nitrites  :cheers: think it's four weeks today , i would say 0.5 on my chart but they are definitely there  :) Ammonia is still around 1. I shall wait now and hopefully the nitrates will spike soon and the ammonia will drop a little more.

Yey, congratulations!   :cheers:

By the way, any chance you could upload a photo of your tank? I'm curious to see what you have been staring at for the last 4 weeks waiting!

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #40 on: August 23, 2018, 09:19:11 AM »
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Hooray!  :cheers:

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #41 on: August 23, 2018, 11:53:40 AM »
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It's great feeling isn't it  ;D Nitrite should start to shoot up now since 1 ppm ammonia is turned into 2.7 ppm nitrite.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #42 on: August 24, 2018, 10:26:17 PM »
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Thank you for the replies and all the info, I do appreciate it  :) yes Matt i will try tomorrow to get a photo of my tank up. Ammonia is below 1 now and nitrites have spiked to at least 2 , i checked nitrates and they are 40 on my chart. I will add more ammonia tomorrow. I want to put some lava rock in , is this OK ? I want to attach some Java fern to the rock and put a few moss balls in, what do you think ??

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #43 on: August 24, 2018, 10:44:13 PM »
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Great to hear that your tank cycling is moving along in the right direction.  :)

It might be worth waiting until later in your cycle to add the plants, just to be on the safe side.

Offline Matt

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #44 on: August 25, 2018, 07:40:14 AM »
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Congrats, I agree, fine to put the rock in (though the cycling process can attract algae), the high ammonia levels during cycling can dammage plants, I would advise to wait on this.

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #45 on: August 25, 2018, 09:31:38 AM »
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Some types of lava rock are calcareous, which means they'll alter the hardness and pH of the tank water. Test before putting it in the tank. If you have the API test kit, nitrate bottle #1 contains hydrochloric acid, put one drop on the rock and see if it makes tiny bubbles. If it doesn't give it a good wash under the tap and use it. If it does form bubbles, you need to decide whether you want to risk it. Or you could try leaving it in a bucket of water and test pH after a week. Also leave a sample of tap water standing alongside it and test that after a week as well. If the two are the same, the rock is not affecting the water.

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #46 on: August 25, 2018, 02:09:40 PM »
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OK, I've added the ammonia to the tank and i will test in a bit , i'll give it time to mix in. Thank you for the info about the plants and the rock, I will test it before putting it into the tank. Really pleased i joined this forum, your help is really appreciated, i feel like i'm doing things the correct way, so in the long term it is going to save me time from the mistakes i would have made  :)

Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #47 on: August 27, 2018, 03:28:09 PM »
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OK, I have 0 ammonia which was a bit of a shock  :o , I have high nitrate levels , i would say around three on my chart , but could be higher. Shall i add ammonia now or wait until tomorrow ??

Offline Sue

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #48 on: August 27, 2018, 03:35:07 PM »
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OK, I have 0 ammonia which was a bit of a shock  :o , I have high nitrate levels , i would say around three on my chart , but could be higher. Shall i add ammonia now or wait until tomorrow ??

Do you mean nitrite or nitrate at 3?

Yes, now add ammonia to give 3 ppm, and start testing every other day. You need to wait until you have zero at one test and then zero again two days later. On the day of the second zero test, add enough ammonia to get 1 ppm.


Offline Andy64

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Re: Started fishless cycle
« Reply #49 on: August 27, 2018, 03:49:30 PM »
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Yes sorry sue, i mean nitrites , i added ammonia on Saturday which brought it back up to 3 ppm. Just checked today and the ammonia is 0 and the nitrates look to be around 3. shall i wait until i get another 0 reading tomorrow or add more ammonia now to bring it back up to 3 ppm ??

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