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Thread: Fishless Cycling - Adding commercial bacteria and test kits

  1. #1
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    Default Fishless Cycling - Adding commercial bacteria and test kits

    I was wondering what type of test kits people are using. which are the most accurate? i am thinking of getting the API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

    anyone got any experience with adding commercial nitrifying bacteria to their tanks when cycling? Does it reduce cycling time by a lot or am i best just to let the bacteria build naturally? I was looking at the API Quick Start

    and lastly what are peoples thoughts on water conditioners? are they all much the same or some better than others? do these have an impact on test kits displaying false results. i was looking at the API Tap Water Conditioner

    sorry bout the barrage of questions, just finalising bits and pieces for the aquarium and would like to get the best (value for money) is these products

    cheers

  2. #2

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    I don't know exactly how accurate the API Freshwater Test Kit is, but it's definitely accurate enough for our purposes. Probably not any real scientific study, but fine for tracking your cycle.


    I have added bottled bacteria to a few tanks when cycling—it does seem to speed things up a bit but I've never done side by side testing to check. Most people consider it snake oil. If you've already bought it, it can't hurt! But it's probably not worth buying.


    Water conditioner... they probably all work, but most people swear by Seachem Prime.
    Luke

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leukeh View Post
    I don't know exactly how accurate the API Freshwater Test Kit is, but it's definitely accurate enough for our purposes. Probably not any real scientific study, but fine for tracking your cycle.


    I have added bottled bacteria to a few tanks when cycling—it does seem to speed things up a bit but I've never done side by side testing to check. Most people consider it snake oil. If you've already bought it, it can't hurt! But it's probably not worth buying.


    Water conditioner... they probably all work, but most people swear by Seachem Prime.

    I concur with these ideas whole heartedly!

    Mr Krabs, get some mulm from a filter of one of our members in Adelaide. Most of your cycling worries will melt away and you will never speak of cycling again....

  4. #4
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    thanks guys

    Luke / rebel, I had a brain fade and do know someone with a clean aquarium so can get some bacteria from that.

    I did a search while i was waiting for replies (sorry should of done that before posting this topic) and found a reply from Rebel in this topic.... thanks rebel

    The link has excellent information on the accuracy of hobby ammonia tests. To cut a long story short tests were conducted using a known concentration of an ammonia source via Dr Tims Ammonium Chloride solution. The tests found that the API ammonia test was only detecting around half the ammonia present and the salifert tests even less accurte.

    The seachem mulit test ammonia kit was then used to test this same known concentration and results were quite accurate. This kit also has the benefit of differenting between NH3 and Ammonium (NH4+ which isnt toxic to fish). From what i read NH4+ exists as a majority in the aquarium when ph is neatral and at room temperature. NH4+ is converted to NH3 when ph and temperatures rise. Using this kit and understanding this relationship between temp, ph, NH4+ and NH3 will allow me to detect current lethal levels of NH3 and gauge how much NH4+ was present in the aquarium. This should help to get the balance right between all contributing factors and try prevent any future ammonia spikes.

    The other reason i went with is that the more accurate results would allow me to have the ammonia source at the correct level during cycling.

    I ended up purchasing both API master kit and the seachem multi test ammonia kit as the API was good value with the ph, extended Ph, Nitrites and Nitrate kits. Also it will give me a chance to carry out tests between the API & Seachem kits with both reference water and my aquarium water.. will post back to this topic with my results so it can be of help to anyone looking into this topic in the future
    Last edited by MrKrabs; 11-08-17 at 10:18 AM.

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    Curious to see your results.

    I would only use the tests to show positive vs negative. I think it's reasonable to assume that if it's yellow, there is little ammonia in the water.

    If you have mature media, you can cycle as fast as 10 days. Otherwise 6 weeks preferably with plants.

    There are many opinions on this subject...
    https://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads/...ed-tank.48450/

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    cheers for the link, its an excellent source of information. Had absolutely no idea that a tank can be cycled with just plants.. the following points were of interest

    1. a heavily planted tank in a stong growth phase is all that is needed to 'cycle' a tank
    2. ammonia dosing at appropriate levels works and has no adverse effects
    3. organic substrate alone will be sufficient to kick off the cycling process
    4. Filtration via plants alone is possible, biological filtration from filters alone is risky as it is a single source of defence so to have both is better and safer.

    good thing I have have all those bases covered

    I am not fussed about getting my tank cycled quickly, just want to get it done and done right without harming a single fish.

    While I wait to add fish the cycling period can be used to to dial in the CO2, adjusting light levels, getting used to a regular dosing regime with DIY ferts. I am totaly new to all these concepts.

    It will also allow me to experience and track the progress of the nitrogen cycle. I didnt do any of this my first time round. The advice offered back then was to cycle the tank with fish and slowly stock the tank.. Unfortuately back then there wasnt this amount of information readily availabe.

    Funny how I have had a tank for the past 15 years and i have learnt significantly more in the past 3 months than the past 15 years

    I will def report back on the accuracy of the two ammonia test kits when i start setting the tank up.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrKrabs View Post
    The link has excellent information on the accuracy of hobby ammonia tests. To cut a long story short tests were conducted using a known concentration of an ammonia source via Dr Tims Ammonium Chloride solution. The tests found that the API ammonia test was only detecting around half the ammonia present and the salifert tests even less accurte.
    Interesting, I too found that my API ammonia test was registering about half of what the DR Tims dosing suggested I should be reading, i.e I wanted to get to 4ppm ammonia I needed to add 1 drop of Dr Tims per gal (only had 7 gal) this only registered about 2ppm, so I added another 7 or more drops to get the API test to read close to 4ppm, in hindsight I was probably over dosing ammonia, but I did regular water changes so probably didnt matter to much why cycling

  8. #8

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    Still confused about people buying ammonia rather than just adding some fish food. What does it matter if you a certain bullseye amount of ammonia when the idea is to add some ammonia and then watch it get converted to nitrite. The exact amount does not matter infact the more fish you plan on adding the more food you add.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ageofaquariums View Post
    Still confused about people buying ammonia rather than just adding some fish food. What does it matter if you a certain bullseye amount of ammonia when the idea is to add some ammonia and then watch it get converted to nitrite. The exact amount does not matter infact the more fish you plan on adding the more food you add.
    this is exactly what i do, and have spouted for years to anyone who will listen/read.
    add the amount of food for the number of fish you're planning on keeping.
    much easier than trying to measure ammonia. it's a closed system, so whether the food is eaten and pooped or rots in the tank uneaten is pretty much the same.

    on the flip side, i have seen many aquarists declare that their tank is "now cycled", stop adding ammonia and then proceed to either:
    - starve the nitrifying bacteria for days before adding fish.
    - add many more fish than the tank was cycled for.
    both have similar outcomes of "fish are dying but my water is perfect" comments. it's far from a perfect science, but close enough is good enough. nitrifying bacteria will catch up. but that's why lots of water changes early on are so important - it is your buffer for error.

    to quote some greats,
    "dilution is the solution" -BigDaddyAdo
    "bucket chemistry at best" -Grubs
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    We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ageofaquariums View Post
    Still confused about people buying ammonia rather than just adding some fish food. What does it matter if you a certain bullseye amount of ammonia when the idea is to add some ammonia and then watch it get converted to nitrite. The exact amount does not matter infact the more fish you plan on adding the more food you add.
    Being reasonably new to the aquarium hobby my memories of just starting out are pretty fresh so i think i can answer this. Only a year ago, or so, my daughter requested (insisted) on getting a bigger tank for her goldfish. My wife and her had been running a 20L tank with 3 goldfish for a year or so. The goldfish kept dying. I think you might be able to work out why.
    As i was expected to purchase this new tank i decided to do some research on what size tank might be appropriate. Well let me tell you all something you already know. The internet is full of inappropriate advice, mis-information and general crap sprinkled with gems of wisdom. After working out that 20L was not really enough room for 1 goldfish and deciding on a 3 footer i had to cycle the tank. There was pages and pages of info on cycling a tank that went from "use fish" to "buy our product". Most, but not all, said i needed to get bacteria to grow that would convert Ammonia>Nitrite>Nitrate. Ok i had the basics but where do i get ammonia from and how much do i add. 30% said add fish, 50% said buy products, 20% said add food or raw prawns/fish.
    After reading how bad Ammonia/Nitrite was to fish i was not going fish in. Having never feed the goldfish i had no idea how much food to add. That left me with products. How much do i add?? 4ppm that is what the internet said.
    After hunting through bunnings for ammonia and not being confidant in what was there i eventually stumbled onto Aquarium Life forum. After a s*** load of reading old posts i realized that some of the people on here knew what they were talking about and that gave me the confidence to give a fishless cycle using food (and raw prawns) a go.
    Without that trust in the people here i would have gone for a product and 4ppm ammonia because that is what 80% of the articles on the net tell you to do.
    Anyway 6 fishless cycled tanks later and i think i'm almost getting as blase as Rebel when it comes to cycling a tank...Lol

    People dont trust Ageofaquariums, Pil or Madmerv as we are the minority when it comes to googling a tank cycle and we are the 20%.

  11. #11
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    Why does it matter how you choose to cycle your tank? All that matters is that its cycled and preferably without fish in it. Every thing i read states cycling with ammonia works and has no adverse affects, an costs under $10.. I really can't understand why u guys are so anti-ammonia

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrKrabs View Post
    Why does it matter how you choose to cycle your tank? All that matters is that its cycled and preferably without fish in it. Every thing i read states cycling with ammonia works and has no adverse affects, an costs under $10.. I really can't understand why u guys are so anti-ammonia
    I agree, for 10 buck can cycle many tanks with the dr tims stuff... the theory of add as much food as you will feed you fish doesnt work for me, I never have any idea of the type and amount of fish I am going to keep when i first start a tank. Generally when i get my chosen fish I only feed a tiny amount to see how much they will actually eat and then up from there.

  13. #13
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    Over the years I've probably setup and pulled down 100 or more tanks, the one thing that I do for all my tanks is having filters that I can put proper filter media in (seachem matrix, Eheim substrate etc etc). I have not "cycled a tank" for probably 95 of the tanks I've owned, that's right, setup tank, fish in same day. Never lost a fish to ammonia or nitrite during the establishment stage. All the tanks have been producing nitrate within a few days.

    There's a couple of things I do,
    1. Have a filter for the new tank that can accept proper filter media.
    2. At least 50% of the media in the new tanks filter is taken from mature tanks (often ill swap out up to 25% of a mature tanks media).
    3. Both the new tank I've setup and the tanks I've taken media from are dosed seachem stability as per the label.

    And that's it, that's my process.

    Do I reccomend this process to beginners? No.
    Is the seachem stability really working? No idea, I'm not game to do it without, the process has always worked perfectly so I don't mess with it.

    Things I also do that probably help.

    1. I generally keep only shrimp and small/micro fish species.
    2. New tanks are generally lightly stocked for the first week or two.
    3. Feeding is kept relatively minimal for the first few days.
    4. Any signs of stress and I triple dose seachem prime.
    5. Test kit ready if I'm really concerned. (Hardly ever) and big water change if need be.
    6. My tanks are generally planted, and often have moss (which usually continues growing immediately and consuming ammonia immediately unlike stems that need time to acclimatize.)

    So why does this work for me? There isn't one reason but the most consistent thing is my love affair with having cycled media somewhere I can swap out to setup a new tank and always having air driven box filters or small internals (or a canister) I can use proper biomedia in. I rarely use only sponge filters, they are always supplemental.

    The other is the seachem stability, does it work? No idea, I don't have the time or inclination to test it, if it's not adding bacteria what it is doing is neutralizing ammonia and nitrite during the filter catch up phase, that's always been my reasoning for justifying the cost.

    Do I think you should be doing what I do? Err no. Just cause it works for me doesn't mean it'll work for you.
    Last edited by Juls; 13-08-17 at 07:59 AM.

  14. #14
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    ahh but then how do you know how much ammonia to add? is there a prescribed formula that says once your tank can cycle 4ppm ammonia in 24 hours = # of fish bioload?

    no. it's not a perfect science. like i said, close enough is good enough.
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  15. #15
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    so i started cycling the tank.

    Day 1: i did nothing, added no ammonium source to see how much cal black earth leached ammonia.

    Day 2 : tested with the API test kit - bareley registered so around 1 ppm or less. so added a teaspoon of Dr Tims ammonia source (supposed to give me 2ppm ammonia for 400L).

    Day 3: tested with both API and Seachem ammonia kits and this is where i dont understand what is going on. The API registered about 1-2 ppm but the seachem kit (which is supposed to be more accurate) measured a big fat zero. I then added 1 1/2 teaspoons of ammonia, waited a couple of hours, then tested again.. API measured 3-4 ppm and seachem again absolutely nothing at all.


    going to test again tonight but anyone got any idea as to why the seachem is registering nothign? from my research it is supposed to be more accurate giving a reading of around double what API does.

    one last thing, I have seachem prime but have not added it at all to my tank yet. Am i supposed to condition the water while the tank is cycling, i thought that adding prime would give false results to some test kits.

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