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FAQs on Establishing Cycling Products in Freshwater Systems

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for Beginners, Water Quality and Freshwater Aquariums,

Related FAQs: Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 3, Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & Biological Filtration, Freshwater Filtration, Freshwater Environmental Disease, Nitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Ammonia, FW Nitrites, FW Nitrates, Chemical Filtrants,

Marineland's BioSpira, (out of biz),
Now Dr. Tim's One and Only

Hagen's Cycle

Ammonia readings after fishless cycle. Using exogenous ammonia... not too much!     2/9/13
Hello WWM,
I'm setting up new planted tank. It is a 12g nano cube. I'm on the second week of my fishless cycle. It seem to have cycled in just 9 days. On day 1 I added pure ammonia to 5ppm.  Ammonia dropped to 0 on day 3 and nitrite spiked to 3ppm on that day so I lowered my dose to 3ppm of ammonia. Then on day 6 nitrites dropped and nitrates raised just a little from 20 to 40.
<Interesting... what else had you done...?>
 I kept adding ammonia up to 3ppm and on day 9 the ammonia was down to 0 within 24 hours so I thought the tank was cycled then. I kept adding ammonia everyday to 3ppm as I did not get a chance to get my fish yet. On day 12 I noticed ammonia didn't drop to 0 but it stayed at 1ppm.
I'm on day 14 now and I have not added any more ammonia but it is still reading 1ppm.
<Something is decomposing, deaminating here>
All my other parameters are still the same (ph 6.8, nitrite 0, nitrates 40) but ammonia is just hanging at 1ppm. I didn't do a water change yet
<I would... and add a bit of baking soda... a level teaspoon; will help>
because I was waiting till a day before I get the fish to do a 50% water change. My question is, does this mean the nitrogen cycle is not done yet or is there something else I need to do like a pwc to get the tank back on track?
<Is not done... if there is measurable NH3/NH4OH present>
 Btw when I started the tank I put eco complete substrate,  a piece of Malaysian driftwood,
<This could be a source of the forestalling... but will cycle in time>
3 river rocks for decor, 2 plants, and aqua chargers for biological filtration.
<These too>
Also the tank has sponge filter and activated carbon which I plan to remove once the nitrogen cycle is complete. Any ideas and advice will be appreciated.
Thank you,
<Time in a bottle. Just patience required here. Bob Fenner>
Re: Ammonia readings after fishless cycle.    2/9/13

Hello Bob Fenner, thank you for the prompt response!
<Welcome Fremi!>
I just have a few questions. 1 what will the baking soda do to the nitrogen cycle, and do I add it to the main tank or the filter area?
<It (sodium bicarbonate) will speed on the cycle... help w/ resisting the reductive events...>
 2 what do you mean by the forestalling with the driftwood and the aqua chargers?
<These are very likely acting to lengthen the time of establishing cycling. See WWM re FW biofiltration>
 3 should I add more ammonia to bring it up to 3ppm or just wait until it drops to 0? Thanks again, Fremi
<I would not raise the level more than 1.0 ppm now... too much ammonia poisons all life, including nitrifying microbes. BobF>

Easy Balance and cycling questions 10/16/12
Hi folks
Right, I'll ask the quick one first. I recently bought a new 70 litre tank and it came with whatever Tetra's version of tap safe is, a small tub of food and some mystery product called "Easy Balance" that claims I only need to do water changes once every six months if I use it. It also seems to "stabilise pH and KH". Is this stuff snake-oil, consignable only to the bin or is it worth using it until the bottle is empty? I'm always hesitant to believe extraordinary claims and anything that mucks with my water chemistry makes me uneasy.
<Personally, I'd probably donate it to a local fish club for the next auction. Nothing can replace water changes in my opinion.>
I won't buy any more of it, anyway, since I'm not paying for something that elbow grease can accomplish just as easily, just curious.
<Set up another small tank and play with it if you are curious.>
The purpose of the tank was to set up the Betta Splendens "Sorority" scenario as per this thread (amongst others):
I know it's a risk but I am keeping a really close eye on them and have backup nanos to use as hospital tanks or outright isolation tanks. So far, I've not seen any real open aggression, just a few nips, chases and a bit of flaring. No worse than Danios, so far. Fingers crossed! I've got some lovely specimens too, with some of them really similar in colouration to wild betas.
<Females can often live in a sorority tank. Depends on the individuals.>
Into this new tank went a mature bubbler filter and a new All Pond Solutions 600 litres per hour internal filter.  I rubbed the wetted media from the 600lph over mature filter media from my other tanks. The media from each mature filter was also rinsed in the new aquarium's water with the "pumps running". I want to go with the 600lph since the trick to this setup seems to be slight overstocking to disperse aggression. I thought over filtering might not be a bad plan in this situation!
<Just watch your water currents. Bettas are still water fish.>
I didn't expect the bubbler to keep up with 8 female betas in a 70 litre tank, but I didn't expect it too be too harsh on them either, especially with frequent partial water changes (plan was 10% per day, depending on analysis) and light feeding. Sort of an "assisted" fish in cycle. Well, it seems like the bubbler is keeping up after all, two weeks in and not a jot of ammonia in my daily tests. I'm now feeding normal amounts and doing my standard 20% weekly water change. The issue I have is that I'm not sure how long to leave the bubbler running in parallel with the new filter. Normally I'd set up a tank with a new filter, go fishless and be able to monitor the cycle but this isn't really an option here.
<I have a sponge filter going in all my tanks in tandem with HOB filters, unless I don't want currents, then it's only sponge filters.  I think you can just use common sense here. Just turn it off for a few days and leave it in the tank so you don't lose the bacteria. If trouble starts, turn it back on.>
Just as an aside, so far I really like these internal filters from All Pond Solutions for Betta setups. They come with an optional spray bar that you can adjust the angle of egress on. The spray bar really reduces the force of water and with the outlet holes angled toward the back of the tank it does so even further. I have another smaller one cycling in another tank to use with my male Betta. I can get rid of the ugly home-made baffle on the outside of his internal filter soon. Still, they are dirt cheap, so I'll be interested to see how much life I get out of them.
<Have not used them myself.>
Anyroad, thanks for any advice you can give, both on the new filter cycle issue, the Easy Balance and anything else you might spot that I've overlooked. Also, thanks again for all the help you've given me in the past.
<I think you are right on track.>
Re: Easy Balance and cycling questions 10/16/12     10/18/12

Hi Rick
Thanks for your input. I always like an experiment, so I might just do that!
I'll stick the bubbler in it's final destination (a soon-to-be cherry shrimp nano) and once I'm sure the Bettas are fine then go ahead with that.
Thanks again, your advice and reassurance is very much appreciated.
<Let us know how it turns out.>

Re: Floaty fish... est. bio-cycling FW 1/25/12
Ok I have been reading till my eyes hurt, still cant get exact answers and cannot navigate through the forum , never did this before but I did try, I have a question about using Dr. Tim's one and only for moving one of my goldfish about 7 inches 12 yrs old to a tank of his own,
<Best to move media et al. as well. Read here:
one to allow the others more room and he fights with them, I feel I should do this, I will move one of the BioWheels from old tank and add his new whisper 60 to new tank, also will take half the stones from old tank, now with this and adding one and only WILL I have any problems in old and new tank, as the old will still have fish in it with less stones and one less filter, each will have fresh water added
<Not likely>
Does Dr Tims one and only work, Does anyone know this for sure??
<I do; yes. I know Tim Hovanec personally.>>
How will I know it is working?? I have ordered 70 dollars worth of that , and have my new tank and filters ready to set up, JUST SO NERVOUS!! Please let me know if anyone thinks with my plan I will have any problems?? And if anyone knows for sure if dr Tims one and only really works?? Is it as good as the once available BioSpira
Thanks I am sorry to have to mail again but I cant read or find what I need anymore, MY EYES are burning!!
Cathy Hart
Re: Floaty fish... Dr. Tim/'s 1/26/12

wow you know dr Tim personally!!
<Yes; we were both life science majors at San Diego State University>
So one and only really works,
<... it does>
even if I didn't use old media will it work as well??
Will I have ammonia problems, What can you tell me about this one and only?? How does it work where others don't at all!!
<Please... learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM. Your repeated questions re what is already archived there are tiring. B>
Re: Floaty fish
I do try, I am sorry for all the questions, thanks for the help
Re: Floaty fish
I do try to search, never can find what I am looking for, I just typed in the search, one and only nitrifying bacteria and got something like this
River type setup (Crayfish with Hillstream fish, snails) 10/26/10
then I typed in the search switching tanks, got the same thing
I will not bother, I will try this on my own, I hope I already have enough info from you so far to switch tanks safely for the fish (sorry for bold letters, don't know how that happened!)

Question about my new cycling Platy tank, FW, cycling products 12/29/10
<Hi there>
I recently purchased a 14 gallon tank. I have 4 platies in the tank and as of tomorrow they will have been there for 3 weeks. Before I added any fish to the tank I added Nutrafin Cycle
<Mmm, have found this product to be... unreliable. Sometimes works, other times...>
and let the tank run for about 3 or 4 days. Prior to adding any fish the levels for ammonia, nitrites and
nitrates were 0 and the pH was about 7.6. The tap water is about 7.4 and the guy at the fish store told me that Platies like water with a little bit of salt in it so I added a little over 1 tablespoon of salt to the water,
thus raising the pH to 7.6.
<So... something other than table salt, NaCl>
The fish all seemed to adjust well. They spent the first day or two hiding in different corners of the tank. Because one spent a lot of time at the surface, I was concerned there wasn't proper aeration so I installed a power head to further oxygenate the tank. The fish all get along well, all 4 are males and occasionally they chase each other, but that is infrequent.
My concern is the ammonia level and whether the tank is cycling properly.
Starting about 3 days into having fish in the tank I noticed that the ammonia levels were rising (as I knew they would).
<... Not really. IF the "Cycle" worked... and this exposure is very hard on your fish>
I used a test kit on a daily basis. I did frequent water changes (perhaps 30% at a time) every day or every other day. If the water was unchanged for a day then the ammonia would easily rise to 1.0.
<Deadly toxic at high pHs>
I kept doing 30-40% water changes daily to try and bring the levels down to .25 or .5. When it seemed as though the ammonia was rising closer to 2.0, the guy at the fish store told me to buy Ammo Lock because it would detoxify the ammonia (converting it to ammonium),
<Only temporarily...>
which would be less stressful for the fish, but which would still provide the beneficial bacteria with the food they need for the colonies to grow.
I continued doing 1-2 water changes per day and added about 5mL of Ammo Lock to the tank for 3 days. The ammonia levels continued registering at about 1.0. For the first two weeks, the pH held steady around 7.4 or 7.6 and I still have 0 nitrites or nitrates.
But last night I noticed that the ammonia was about .5 and the pH seemed to have suddenly decreased to 6.
The fish were acting normal, but I immediately did a 30% water change. The pH rose to about 6.4. This morning I tested the water again and the pH was back down to 6. I did another water change this afternoon bringing the pH up to about 6.4-6.6. The temperature has been holding steady at 80 degrees.
<Really too high for Platies>
I am concerned that the ammonia levels are still high after 3 weeks and that the pH seems to be suddenly erratic. The guy at the fish store told me NOT to add any salt to the tank at this point so I have not been able to increase the pH of the tank other than through water changes, which I'm doing at least once a day, sometimes twice.
<Do take care to not elevate pH in the presence of ammonia, nitrite. The two together make the water very toxic>
I feel as though I shouldn't be doing this many water changes, but I am concerned about leaving the fish
in water at such a low pH and with the ammonia levels as they are.
What should I do to help the tank cycle properly and to keep the fish healthy?
<... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
and the linked files above>
Is the fact that I still have zero nitrites after 3 weeks a sign that the tank is not cycling properly?
<No... these events may not be related>
Am I doing the right thing by doing so many water changes?
<Not really... Let us cut to the proverbial chase: there should be no livestock present cycling a system as you're doing>
During the day when the lights are on, the platies swim around, up and down the tank, swim in and out of the fake plants and hide in the rocks.
Sometimes they all seem to be very tired and retire to separate corners of the tank for what appear to be short naps. Then they swim around again, sometime hanging out hear the surface (but not gasping for air) just drifting in the current. Is this all normal platy behavior?
<No... they're being poisoned>
Any help would be appreciated. I just want to make sure that the fish are happy and healthy and that the tank is on its way to cycling.
<Read where you've been referred; and do write back if you have further questions, concerns. Bob Fenner>
Re: Question about my new cycling Platy tank 12/29/10
I did actually read the article that you referred me to. I guess I have two follow up questions. The first is, what exactly is happening in my tank as far as the cycle goes?
<It is "cycling" irrespective of the Hagen product, but you have likely forestalled the process via the use of the Ammo-products and periodic water changes. The old maxim of "it used to take seven days to cure a cold, but nowadays w/ modern medicine it only takes a week" comes to mind>
Are the bacterial colonies just not developed enough yet?
Is there anything that I can do to help them along?
<? All covered where you were referred to read>
Second, what steps can I take to make sure the fish are as comfortable and healthy as possible?
<This as well. They should be moved to a cycled system... Or if left where they are fed VERY minimally, and not at all if NH3 levels approach 1 ppm>
Is it ok if the pH remains as low as 6.4 and if I continue to do 2 water changes per day?
<Not really... please peruse the linked files... BobF>
Re: Question about my new cycling Platy tank 12/29/10
Oh, sorry...I guess I had a total of three follow up questions. The third is, can you describe what typical platy behavior is? Should they never be resting at a particular level in the tank (either at the bottom or top)
but constantly be moving at all times?
<Yes to moving throughout the tank, constantly during daylight hours. B>

Fish Question... cycling issue? FW hlth. 11/23/10
Hello Crew,
I have a 10 inch freshwater Plecostomus in a 55 gallon aquarium.
To make a long process into a short story, I bought the entire setup piece by piece (with the help of an aquarium shop owner) and achieved pristine and balanced water, all in preparation for a fish to come live with me. He was a 10 inch African Cichlid who had been living healthfully for years in a friends tank and this friend offered the fish so he could change his scenery a bit (the friend's). He arrived here on a Friday night in a large cooler of his own very well-kept aquarium water, and by Saturday night he had died. Although his color returned to full strength an instant after being placed in the new tank, as time wore on he rapidly deteriorated. His symptoms included a white wispy film flowing from his fins, clouding his eyes, and disintegrating the tips of his fins. He was lethargic at first, being less active than usual, and then he began resting his belly on the bottom of the tank, and gradually he seemed to have difficulty holding his body perpendicular to the tank floor. When I began noticing this white film forming 10-12 hours after his arrival I called the Aquarium-owner friend and he recommended I check his water temp and bring it up from 68 degrees F to 75-80 to help him heal, and to go purchase some anti-fungal medication.
I did this approx. 6 hours before he went belly-up. Now my Plecostomus has the same white film, lethargy, difficulty breathing, a slight reddening of his scaled regions and is unable to hold himself up on the glass (there are some bubbles at the top of the tank now but I was told that is probably from the medication). I've put "Lifeguard" tablets in the tank (an antibacterial and antiparasitic) as well as added 4 rounded tablespoons aquarium salt. This tank has a 50-60 gallon dbl-headed water filter, a 200 watt heater and a complete undergravel filtration system. Oh and the Pleco had been doing beautifully the 3 weeks he was in the tank by himself before the cichlid got introduced (we did that so that the cichlid wouldn't beat up the Pleco, or if he did the Pleco would defend "his" territory and not let himself get injured too badly, since the cichlid wasn't very friendly with other tankmates).
I understand that my Pleco may die from whatever this bacteria (I'm guessing it's a bacteria) is if the medications are too late, but what puzzles me is that I can't seem to find a disease with this appearance
online to compare or get advice. This is my first attempt at having an aquarium ever, and I am really bummed about this first experience... I've put a lot into trying to make the most comfortable environment possible for a couple of fish. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I've attached pictures of how he looks right now, and a couple of how the tank looked before introducing the cichlid. Thank you for your time guys I really appreciate it...
-Laurie, Klamath Falls, OR
<Laurie... is this system cycled? Do you have the means to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate? The pic of the set-up appears very sterile...
Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwcyctrbfix.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Fish Question; as suspected 11/23/10
I did the new aquarium process dictated by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and used their product "Stress Zyme+" that had me let the water run through the filter for 2 weeks before putting in fish,
<... too soon. Takes longer to become established, cycled. Read where you were referred or any general freshwater aquarium husbandry book>
adding 10mL per 10 gallons on the first, seventh, and fourteenth days.
This was to remove chlorines and chloramines and develops biological filter (by adding beneficial bacteria).
<... it, the API product, does not do this last>
Unfortunately the Pleco "Leonardo" died last night not long after I sent you those pictures. It looks like I would benefit from some "How to clean your aquarium after fish death to prevent it happening again" advice, if you will.
<No need; not advised. Instead leave all as is to cycle and read in the meanwhile>
Thanks again.
I'm going to study the white film on Leo's fins and see if it is a fungal or bacterial growth.
<... decomposers period...>
I'm a medical student rather used to culturing gross stuff, and I had some sterile swabs and specimen tubes handy. I'll let you know how they test.
<I have an advanced degree in fisheries pathology... Read on. BobF>

Re: Fish Question 11/23/10
The Stress Zyme says "Contains Live Bacteria".
<... not nitrifiers of use. Please, this/WWM is NOT a bb... search them on the Net re this product. It alone will NOT establish bio. cycling>
And two weeks wasn't long enough?
<... no>
Leo was doing fine for the 2 week he was in there alone: water was clear, he was active and a healthy color. That is a very cool degree, and I'm glad you have a site like this to help us beginners. I am not adverse to further reading on aquarium preparation, but please understand I invested in an aquarium to have a pleasant living room de-stressor (Finals are in two weeks). I will do as you suggest and let the filters run for now. I thought I was taking every precaution possible with this attempt, and the water was perfect until something in/on the cichlid came into the tank. Well anyway thank you for the advice; I'll read some freshwater aquarium husbandry books over Christmas break.
<And you. B>
Re: Fish Question 11/24/10
Here, let me read you the label on this API Stress Zyme+ since we seem to have a bit of confusing interaction on the subject. Maybe this will help
"The Complete Starting Kit for Achieving Ideal Water Conditions
Benefits: Contains millions of live bacteria that speed up the development of the biological filter to eliminate ammonia and nitrite.
When to use: Whenever setting up a new aquarium, and use weekly to maintain fresh water aquariums.
Shake well
New Aquariums first use: use Stress Coat (the other bottle in this kit) to remove chlorines and chloramines. Next, on the 1st,7h, and 14th days, add 10mL of Stress Zyme per gallon of aquarium water to establish biological filter.
Thereafter and existing aquariums: to maintain good water quality and healthy biological filtration, add 5 ml.s of Stress Zyme per 10 gallons aquarium water weekly.
I understand that this site is not a bb. I really didn't mean to be obnoxious by expressing confusion. I was very careful to do everything just so for the sake of two fish, and both have died on my watch. Both had very interesting personalities were and were very healthy before the cichlid was moved here. My water tested just right, even with the slightly higher pH the cichlid would prefer. I had suspected some fungal or bacterial agent introduced by the cichlid, maybe the cooler he was moved it, or a microorganism who found the new tank a more productive environment than a previous one, but I don't know that sort of thing, especially not about fish. And as I've said, I've looked all over online for what these symptoms
could have been caused by. Please let me know if you have any more ideas on what may have gone wrong.
<Hello Laurene. The problem with these "instant cycling" potions like Stress Zyme is they're not terribly reliable. They're like stain removers that promise to clean your clothes from ink stains and such: sometimes they work, but sometimes they don't. So most of us who've been in the hobby for a while don't recommend them. At best, if you use one -- don't rely on it.
Add the instant cycling potion, and then add an ammonia source like a small pinch of flake. Add further pinches over the next week, and if you find ammonia and nitrite levels stay at zero, then all well and good. Add some fish! But if the ammonia and nitrite levels aren't zero, then the potion hasn't "taken" and the bacterial will need a bit more time. Carry on adding the pinches of flake and doing water changes. In all likelihood you'll speed up the cycling process because the potion will get things started, but you probably won't entirely eliminate the cycling process. By the way, once a filter is cycled, there's no need to add further Stress Zyme on a weekly or whatever basis. The manufacturers would obviously love you to, but the reality is that the filter contains a self-maintaining population of bacteria that will be optimised simply through proper maintenance.
Nothing needs to be added. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Question 11/24/10

Alright, thank you for the advice Neale.
<Always glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Fritz Zyme #7 01/10/10
Good morning, hope you are doing well today. I have one quick question.
My 55 gal freshwater tank has been set up for about 2 weeks now with no livestock. I just purchased a bottle of Fritz Zyme #7 to aid in cycling the tank. I asked the LFS if I should dump this in the water and let it wait a week or two anyway before I add any fish and they told me I should add it at the same exact time as my fish. Something does not sound correct to me about this. Could you please help me out with the correct answer here?
Thanks for your help,
<Hello Matt. In theory, Fritz Zyme #7 contains the bacteria of the sort in biological filters. Unfortunately, these bacteria "potions" have a very mixed track record. I'd not recommend using any of them without a back-up plan. If this was me, I'd use the potion, and then add a pinch of flake twice a day, just as if there were fish in the tank. Do this daily for a couple of weeks, using your nitrite test kit every 2-3 days. If the nitrite level stays at zero, then lo and behold, the bacteria have "taken" and your filter may well be matured. Your retailer is indeed correct that if there isn't an ammonia source, these bacteria will die back. But while you *could* add fish, that wouldn't be my preference, because of the bacteria don't "take", your fish will be exposed to high levels of ammonia and nitrite. Better to add fish food, the same amount you'd need to feed the fish in an aquarium this size, and see how things pan out across a couple of weeks. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Using Ammonium hydroxide to cycle tank 7/19/10
Good afternoon:
<Good morrow Ms. de Almeida. Now AM here>
I am moving in a 6 weeks and wish to set up and cycle a new 55 gallon prior to transferring my goldfish.
<I see>
I have heard that one can use ammonium hydroxide to help establish the nitrogen cycle but I am not sure how much I should add to the tank.
<Mmm, I would not do/use this... there are other exogenous sources of ammonia (NH4Cl, dilute liquid cleaning ammonia...) that folks do use, but better to move some existing source of microbes and feed with a bit of flake food. Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
I will be seeding the tank with some cycled material so all I will need to do is add enough ammonia to establish the bacterial colony and keep it fed until I can add my fish. I have purchased a bottle of ammonia (ingredients read: water and ammonium hydroxide) but no molarity is listed.
<Mmm, if you're determined to do/try this, you'll need to experiment... with a given volume of water and a measured amount (an eye dropper will do) of the NH4OH... Start with a gallon, add a drop, swirl around and test... you want no more than 1.0 or so ppm>
I have tested the tap water where I am moving and it is very favourable for goldies- pH is 8.0 and KH and GH are high. I can't find any information as to how much ammonia I should add to the tank to help build and establish
<"Just enough"... in other words there is no real minimum as long as it's measurable, but there is a maximum... a few ppm will actually subtend to kill nitrifiers/nitrification>
Should my goal be to add ammonia until I reach a certain number on my test kit or should I add ammonia based on the amount of water in the tank?
<The latter>
Also, should I be monitoring ionized ammonia, free ammonia or just total ammonia with my test kit?
Thanks for your help.
Gina de Almeida
<Do take care my friend. Bob Fenner>

Fishless cycling, Freshwater 7/8/09
Hi crew, the following is an Email I attempted to send Chris Cow Ph D.
author of http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm .
Apparently his email is not working.
Does anyone at WWM have experience with fishless cycling?
<Yes, it quite popular with the crew.>
Greetings , I read with great interest the Fishless Cycling article and wanted to share my diary with you and possibly get some feedback. My wife is the fish person while my involvement is setup and cycling.
I have a broad mechanical/fabrication background and am enjoying learning about aquarium plumbing and function.
We already have a 10 gallon setup that we will use as a hospital tank that currently contains 2 Cichlids.
It turns out our well water is a natural for them ( Non chlorinated, high hardness/high pH).
We recently acquired a 2' x 2' x 8' 200+ gallon aquarium free(should have been my first clue) from our neighbor.
<Wow, nice.>
It was up and running until I moved it to our home on 6/1. After 2 weeks of work refinishing the base, building a new canopy, beefing up foundation, polishing scratches in acrylic tank, re plumbing pump and filters and overhauling the under gravel filter it was time to fill and cycle.
<Lots of work.>
Added 2 1/2" fine gravel over filter(filter covers the entire bottom with 3 evenly spaced 3/4"suctions in bottom of tank).
<While under-gravel filters work just fine they are sort of out of favor currently, they do have some pitfalls to be aware of. See here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm and here
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltrmedart.htm for details.>
Added 15- 6" x 8" x 4" rocks along with 2 dozen fake plants and a 48" air wand.
<The rocks may cause filtration issues with the UGF as detailed in the above articles.>
Twin cartridge filters (plumbed in Parallel) with a tested pass thru rate in excess of 600 GPH
This aquarium will be an all Cichlid No live plant setup.
<Can't offer much on the Cichlids as I have never kept them, but we have many dedicated cichlid keepers on the crew.>
Lighting is 3- 24" Dual compact fluorescent (3- 10,000K 65 Watt white and 3-Actinic Blue 65 watt for a total of 390 watts)
<Overkill here if you do not plan on keeping plants, but should work fine,
although it might encourage algae growth.>
All test kits are by API and ammonia is 10%. Tank temp set AT 80 degrees.
Due to time constraints all tests performed once daily at 7 AM
Tap water : 0 Amm(ammonia) , 0 Ni(nitrite) , 0 Na(nitrate) , 200 ppm KH(carbonate hardness) , 200 ppm GH(general Hardness) , pH 8.2
KH , GH , pH did not vary from beginning to end so I have omitted them from the daily readings.
6/12 filled tank added 4 tsp(Teaspoons) Amm to achieve 5 ppm
6/13 Amm 4.0 , Ni 0 , Na 0 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/14 Amm 5.0 , Ni 0 , Na 0 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/15 Amm 5.0 , Ni 0 , Na 0 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/16 Amm 10+ , Ni .25 , Na 8 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/17 Amm 10 , Ni 1 , Na 10 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/18 Amm 8 , Ni 5 , Na 10 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/19 Amm 2 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/20 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 7 , added 4 tsp Amm
6/21 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/22 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/23 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/24 Amm 0 , Ni 5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/25 Amm 0 , Ni 2 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/26 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/27 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 7 , added 2 tsp Amm Cartridges changed
6/28 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/29 Amm 0 , Ni .5 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
6/30 Amm 0 , Ni .5 , Na 8 , 50 % water change & added 2 tsp Amm
(thought we were done, my mistake) Green algae and brown algae (Diatoms ?)appear
<Common in new tanks, water changes to keep it in check.>
7/1 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/2 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/3 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 8 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/4 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 20 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/5 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 10 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/6 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 15 , added 2 tsp Amm
7/7 Amm 0 , Ni 1 , Na 10 , added 2 tsp Amm
Green algae and brown algae(?) multiplying to cover all large rocks.
<More water changes will help, 10-15% weekly ideally in my opinion, biweekly at least.>
Sooo I'm a little confused.
Hardness and pH haven't changed, Ammonia has crashed, Nitrite seems to beholding at 1 ppm, and Nitrate seems to be wallowing around 10 to 20 ppm.
<Nitrates are the end product, and need to be removed by water changes, more filter material may be necessary to get the nitrite down to 0.>
Am I missing something or is this on track and just not done cycling ?
<Is not done, although hopefully will be soon, usually takes less than a month but with this sized tank and it may take a little longer.>
Will the brown algae(Diatom?)die off or do I need to take action?
<Nutrient control should keep it in check, pretty hard to eliminate completely especially without live plants to compete for resources.>
Still having fun just want to make sure I'm not spinning my wheels.
<You seem to be on track here. Enjoy, you have a nice start here and a tank that gives you lots of options.>
Thanks, Chris
<Chris> <<Stop pouring in the ammonia. You're forestalling establishment of nitrification... RMF>>

Re: Fishless cycling 7/9/09
Hi Chris
Thanks for the input. Your site and forum are far and away the best resource on the web.
It has been in the back of my mind for a while that the amount of Ammonia I add every day could be overwhelming the biological filer, so unless you have reason to object, I think it is time to shift gears. The article says to do a 80% water change before adding fish so I'm thinking I could do this and at the same time reduce the ammonia added daily to 1 tsp.
I will continue to test daily and also take your recommendation of 15% water changes weekly.
If the Nitrite drops to Zero that should support the idea that the biological filter is either to small or not completely developed ( I lean toward the latter).
My wife ordered (on hold) 60 juvenile - 1" Mbuna Cichlid : 12 Demasoni, 12 Electric Yellow, 12 Red faced Mac, 12 Rusty and 12 Obliquidens Zebra's from www.livefishdirect.com. According to the article the amount of ammonia we have been adding is well in excess of what a fully stocked tank will produce.
<Probably, but I would still not try to introduce all these fish at once, small groups least to most aggressive.>
If this is true 60 juveniles should be a small percentage of what the biological filter will eventually need to support.
<Most likely.>
Assuming I do all the above how long should I wait to stock the tank ?
<Once nitrite hits 0 and stays there you should be ok.>
I knew when I built the canopy that the lighting was overkill but I didn't want to build it twice and I wanted to allow for future possibilities.
<Good idea.>
I will continue to research the under-gravel filter (thanks for the links).
Assuming that the UGF stays what would your recommendations be for possible live plants to combat the Diatoms/Nitrate ?
<Live plants are often problematic with UGF, could try some floating plants, or set up a sump/refugium to grow plants in.>
We have a standing order on hold for
<Stock slowly, patience is key here.>

Re: Fishless cycling 7/12/09
Hi Chris Saw my previous post(with your inputs) on WWM website.
At the end of the post "RMF" added a comment to the effect that I should stop adding ammonia altogether.
<Yes... adding ammonia at this juncture is very likely poisoning your beneficial microbes>
If I interpreted this correctly then I either have to add fish immediately or the biological filter will die for lack of ammonia/waste.(?)
<Neither my friend. I would simply add a "pinch" of some dried food at this point... the protein therein is sufficient to supply nitrifying microbes>
A brief update : After an 80% water change and reducing daily added ammonia to 1/2 Tsp ammonia,
Tests on 7/10 thru 7/12 show 0 ppm Nitrite and 5 ppm Nitrate. If this continues it is my intention to stock the tank on 7/17.
My question for you or any crew member with Cichlid experience is about the manner in which I stock.
My wife and I have researched this extensively and the consensus seems to be that if we are going to have an all Cichlid tank, then the proper method is to Purchase "All juveniles" of varieties known to
coexist successfully and to introduce them all at once.
<This is the best approach>
From what we read this leads to less aggression and attrition. What are we missing in this equation?
<Perhaps to start with all individuals of about the same size>
Once again I thank you for your patience and help.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner/RMF>

Re: Fishless cycling 7/13/09
Thanks so much! Will go with adding flakes starting tomorrow. And yes, the plan is to stock all 1"/1.5" juvenile fish.
Once again, we think that you have one of the greatest sites around for information.
We spent many hours reading WWM prior to doing anything to setup this tank and I am certain that the information we have gleaned will keep us out of trouble.
Thank you again and have a great day!
Dawn & Chris
<Thank you D & C. BobF>

Question about filters, FW, seeding/bacteria -08/27/08 Hello crew, How are you going today? <Just fine, thanks for asking.> My question is: I am in the process of upgrading to a 40 gallon tank from a 5 gallon (big change, so excited) and was wondering can the cycling process be sped up by putting the 5 gallon's filter on the bigger tank, thereby transferring the good bacteria? <Well, the bacterial won't actively "swim" from one filter to the other so while adding the old filter to the tank will help, it won't help by much. So for a few weeks you will need to feed the fish carefully and not add any more fish until such time as the new filter has become matured. The best approach is to take some media from the old filter and put it in the new filter. This will "seed" the new filter, and get it off to a much faster start. You can take 50% of the media from the old filter without substantially lowering its filtration efficacy.> Then removing it once the bacteria has had a chance to grow in the new tank. The 40 gallon would obviously have its own bigger filter as well. How long do you think it would take? I plan to put guppies in there. <I'd recommend leaving the two filters together for at least 4 weeks if you plan to do things this way. If you remove 50% of the media from the old filter, you can leave the old filter on the 5 gallon tank. That tank could now be used to rear fry. The "seeded" new filter will be instantly mature enough to handle half a dozen Guppies, and if you feed them carefully and use a nitrite test kit to keep an eye on things, this new filter should be fully matured within a month.> Thank you very much for your time, I love your site. Sam <Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater parameters during cycling 8/12/08 Hello and sorry to bother with questions again. <Hello!> I am cycling my 40 gallon Freshwater aquarium. I got it on August 1st. I used Bio Spira and put 2 fish in right afterwards. I didn't have a test kit until August 7th. The kit that I got was a Red Sea liquid kit that tests ammonia, nitrites and ph. <OK; all sounds good to go.> The kit I was using and still am for Nitrate is liquid API. So between August 1st to August 6th I don't know if the Bio Spira worked my very first reading were ammonia .25,nitrite .2 and nitrate 5. <Pretty normal for an cycling tank. Keep the NH3 and NO2- that low and you should be fine.> All stayed this way no change. I tested tap water in a bucket with Prime additive still showing .25. <Ah, now: can be one of two things. You could have ammonia in the water. This can happen in certain places, especially agricultural areas where NH3 runs off the land into the water supply. More probably though is that you have chloramine in the water. It's used as a disinfectant. When you use standard dechlorinator in, the chloramine is split into chlorine and ammonia. The chlorine is neutralised, but the ammonia is left behind. If you have ammonia in the water, wherever it comes from, you need to add ammonia remover to the water before adding it to the tank. Products such as "Ammo Lock" do this. Some dechlorinators will remove chloramine, and if you use them and the source is chloramine you should be fine. The test kit can give an erroneous reading though; if in doubt, look on your water supplier's web site and find out if they use chloramine.> I then tested water straight from tap that was .25 so I got suspicious. I took all three types of samples to LFS tank water, treated bucket water and plain tap water. He tested all three with his API test kit and 0 ammonia in all three (makes me wonder if the Bio Spira did do its job). <Bio Spira is no longer manufactured, and some of the "old stock" may well be past its best by date. I've never used the stuff personally, but have to admit to hearing mixed reports. Some people swear by the stuff, others swear at it.> That in itself makes things difficult for a beginner such as myself. <Yes and no. If it's chloramine, add dechlorinator that treats chloramine, and ignore the ammonia reading in the water. In fact after the first week or so you can forget about the ammonia part of the cycling process and concentrate on the nitrite level. Why? Because within 1-2 weeks the ammonia peak will have passed, and you'll now be waiting for the nitrite peak, which usually comes about 3-4 weeks after setting up the tank. Don't be afraid to set the tank temperature slightly higher than normal, i.e., instead of the usual 25 C/77 F, go anything up to 30 C/86 F (assuming your fish will tolerate this). Adding extra aeration will help, too. Oxygen and temperature are both limiting factors, and the more you add, the faster the bacteria will grow.> Anyway I bought a API liquid test kit have been doing tests everyday (oh and I do have some gravel and plants and rocks and stuff from my established tank.) My reading since the 9th have been a consistent ammonia 0, nitrite 1.0 and nitrate 10 oh and ph is been 7.8 to 8.0 through out. <See, absolutely what I'd expect. Your ammonia-eating bacteria have done their thing and they're happy. You're now waiting for the nitrite-eating bacteria to come online.> Do I just need patients for that nitrite and nitrates to fluctuate any and considering I had put those poor 2 fish in (Kribensis and Opaline Gourami) which looks like they are ok to my novice eyes should I stay away from water changes till cycle completes or do I need to do a water change and how much? <These fish are in there? Gouramis are usually okay through the cycling process, but Cichlids are not happy about it (except maybe really tough species like Mozambique Mouthbrooders). In any case, they're through the worst of it now. In any case: do water changes. Water changes are good. Water changes are free. Water changes will save the lives of your fish! The more, the better. But certainly 25% every couple of days wouldn't be out of line.> I also have 3 julii Cory's waiting in the wings in my established tank. <Hold off for now... these are delicate fish and you're likely to lose some or all of them if you add them to an immature tank. Give at least 6-8 weeks before adding them. Once the nitrite is zero and stays zero, you can start adding new fish but don't go bananas.> I speculate that I should wait till all is well in new tank before I add them? <Correct. You're learning real fast!> I know Neale is for cloning the tank (which I am doing as stated above) and not using Bio Spira since he answered my last email. <Indeed. I'm old school about cycling tanks, and "cloning" is just so darned easy once you know about it.> But since I had used it originally and found that my test kit wasn't screwed up and I have fish in there. Otherwise I probably wouldn't even been writing in today. <You're doing fine. Just watch your fish for sings of stress (e.g. laboured breathing, damage to the fins) and keep doing the water changes and water tests for the next couple weeks at least. After that, you'll be done. Keep reading, learning, being patient and you'll have a lovely tank that's easy on the eye and fun to look after. The problems occur when people go tearing into things without thinking. Fishkeeping *is* easy, if you go by the numbers.> Thanks Joe <Cheers, Neale.>

A few questions in setting up new tank. FW BioSpira, 8/5/08 Hello, I have a few questions I am hoping you can help me out with, and if you see anything along the way that you think needs my attention to change I would appreciate any suggestions. <OK.> One of my questions I have is regarding Bio Spira. I was reading a similar question on your site from back in '05 that a link was given to read _www.marinelandlabs.com_ (http://www.marinelandlabs.com) or something like that. When I clicked on link it never connected, so I figured I would write in. I have a new 40 gallon FW tank I set up on Friday the 1st of this month. I used some about 3 gallons from an established tank and the rest from the tap after adding stuff for chlorine and chloramines. I then put in the Bio Spira packet. <Water from mature aquaria contains virtually no filter bacteria. So adding "old" water is a waste of time. To instantly mature a new aquarium you can take up to 50% of the filter media from a mature aquarium and then put it into a the filter in the new tank. Then just add fish! This method works completely reliably assuming the water chemistry between the two tanks is the same, and the mature aquarium won't be harmed (provided you don't go nuts and add a bunch more new fish or drastically overfeed during the next few days). In fact many filter manufacturers recommend half the filter media (sponge, filter floss, ceramic noodles) be replaced every year or two. You need to add new fish to the new tank so the filter has some ammonia to 'eat'. This process is called "cloning a filter" and is the best way to mature new tanks.> I don't know if their supplier refrigerates it, I can speculate the LFS refrigerates it because package was cold. When I got home I put it in the refrigerator till I set up the tank. Then as per what my LFS told me I put my Kribensis in the tank right after adding Bio Spira. Kribensis seems to be doing fine. I tested the water today Monday the 4th (so its been four days since I set the tank up and put in the Bio Spira). The water tested at 0.1 for ammonia .25 for nitrites,5.0 for nitrates and 7.8. for ph. Are these pretty normal for using Bio Spira four days prior? <Not normal, no. The idea with Bio Spira is you get instant maturation of the filter. This means zero ammonia, zero nitrite. But Bio Spira appears to be a temperamental product. I have never used it (I prefer cloning) but my impression from other fishkeepers is that while it _can_ work, it doesn't _always_ work.> Or how long till I should suspect if I got a bad packet. If so, would you recommend I try another packet from a different place or no? <Clone the filter as outlined above and be done with it.> I will keep an eye on test readings. What should I EXPECT to see if Bio Spira is not working? <Zero ammonia/nitrite if it does work; anything else if it isn't working.> Another Question I have is in regards to Emperor 400 filter. I read on here that using the carbon filters that are supplied with the Emperor 400 in the persons opinion was not good and to get something like Aqua Clear media foam sponges or bio balls (the sponges I have seen). I was hoping for a little expansion info on this set up. So I shouldn't be using carbon filtration at all? <I consider carbon a waste of time/space/money in most freshwater tanks. By all means use it if you want, but understand that to do its job it needs replacing every 4 weeks. If you don't do that, it's doing nothing. Moreover, if you do big water changes, 25-50% weekly, the carbon is redundant, because you're removing the dissolved organic chemicals the carbon would otherwise adsorb. Hence my recommendation that you remove carbon from the filter and replace with whatever additional media you like... sponges, filter floss, ceramic noodles.> and. How many slots of the 4 should the sponges be used in ? Just two, or all four? <All four would be fine for plain vanilla biological filtration.> Last Question. I have a pair of Opaline gourami's that I bought to put into the 40 gallon tank. Right now I have them in a 5 gallon quarantine tank. The male seems to be aggressively chasing the female constantly. Is this most likely because of the type of fish, or the small tank? <Absolutely normal for Trichogaster trichopterus, which is why I don't recommend this species as a community tank resident. Males are aggressive, period.> I am wondering if they should be better when I move them to the 40 gallon tank or if I should return the male and try for a less aggressive male (if there such a thing? <Just keep females (shorter dorsal fins, so easy to tell). Alternatively keep a less aggressive species like Colisa fasciata or Trichogaster leeri.> Thank You very much <Cheers, Neale.>

Bio-Spira... not following directions... 2/26/08 I wrote to you on 2/21/08 concerning Amon. & No2 & No3 levels. In brief: 55gal., aqua-clear filtration system, artificial plants & d├ęcors Started tank without fish 12/31/07 Amon ? O.5 No2 &3 - O. Added 6 Danios 1/9/08- Amon. O.5 No2 & 3 ?O. PH-7. <Ammonia is toxic> 1/24/08 Added 3 swordtails & 1 Gourami 2/10/08 Added 6 Australian rainbows Up to this time all levels stayed the same ? Amon. O.5 No2 & 3 ? O. All of this was recommended by LFS and knew of my concerns <... still deadly toxic> about the ammonia levels and no reading for No2 &3. (Told me that the tank probably already cycled) (Can you tell I'm new to this hobby)? <Yep> On 2/17/08 Amon. now 1.0 and still no readings for No2 & 3 PH-7.2 . Had been doing 15 ? 25% water changes weekly with no changes. <No use changing water... forestalling the establishment of cycling> Was told by Bob to use ?Bio-Spira?, no water changes, feed tiny amts. (feed every other day) and no new fish until cycled. <Good advice!> I bought the ?Bio-Spira? and was told by LFS to use only ½ of the pkg. <... a full dose?> I did this on Sat. 1/23 and tested water today and all levels are still the same as on 2/17/08. Should I use the rest of the ?Bio-Spira? --- or wait it out and test daily? <Use the full dose... as labeled> All fish are fine, water crystal clear and no odors. <And check your test kit... against another, and/or make a standard (with household ammonia, and water known to have no ammonia...) Thank you for any help <Read: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Species of Nitrifiers in SW and Fresh 11/25/2007 Dear Crew, Just wondering whether the good bacteria in freshwater systems is the same bacteria in saltwater systems. <That's a far more complicated question that you might think. In one sense, yes, they're the same bacteria. However, they have different relative roles/importance in different environments. There's really no "light reading" on this, but you can try this if you're feeling ambitious: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=168074> Cheers, Andrew <Best, Sara M.>

55 Gallon freshwater water quality problems 11/8/07 Hello Crew, I am somewhat new to the freshwater hobby and am having problems with the water quality in my freshly established 55 gal tank. I set it up and began Cycling on October 14th, 2007. I used a product called Stability from Sea-Chem. <Ah, one of these "instant bacteria" products. They can work well, but approach with caution. To paraphrase Euclid, "There is no Royal Road to a mature aquarium". All these products do is help things along. You still need to do all the usual water quality tests and stock the aquarium carefully checking for problems.> I provided the proper doses for 7 days as the directions said and completed my cycling on October 21. Nitrites, Nitrates, and Ammonia all came back 0ppm with a Ph of 7.0-7.5. <Very good.> 2 Days after cycling I added a 5" Common Pleco. 2 days after that I installed a new Aqua Clear 70 filter to go along with the Aqua-Tech 30-60 That I cycled the tank with. <OK.> That same day I also added a 2" long Horse Face Loach. 2 days after that on Saturday I transferred my 4" long Bala shark from my 29 Gal tank into the 55 Gal. Everyone was doing fine. I continued monitoring my chemical levels every other day for a week. after that week I decided to add two 3" Spotted Pictus Cats. Later that night I tested my water to find out that the Nitrites, Nitrates, and Ammonia have spiked. <Yes, this happens sometimes. An immature aquarium is an unstable aquarium, regardless of whether you do a with-fish or a fish-less cycle.> I did a 10 gal water change with a gravel vac (probably not a good idea) <No, water changes are good. The more the better. In this case, 50% per day would be the minimum. To stop fish dying you need to be re-setting the ammonia down to zero at every opportunity.> and added another dose of the stability per advice from my LFS who is very knowledgeable. <OK.> The next day the levels came down just a tiny bit so I added some more Stability and waited to see what the next day would bring. Well Tuesday came along and my levels were still high so I did a 15 gal water change, added some more Stability trying to get the bacteria up and added Ammo chips to help reduce the Ammonia. <Never mind the Stability. The bacteria are *already* in the filter, so adding more of them doesn't really make any difference. The bacteria just haven't settled down. That takes time. Water changes, my friend, are what you need here.> My last test was yesterday, Wednesday the 5th of November and my levels were as follows: Nitrites 0.25ppm, Nitrates around 10ppm, and Ammonia a whopping 1.0ppm. <Ugh. The nitrates are fine, but the ammonia especially is a killer. Water change! Water change!> My fish all appear healthy and are all very active. I feed them every other day (except for the Pleco, I give him an algae wafer and cucumber every night). <Cut back the food. Don't give them anything on alternate days. The less protein in the system, the less ammonia.> I am at a loss of what to do next. <This is easy: water changes!> I'm thinking of just letting it go and seeing if it balances on its own. <Yes, it will. Two, three weeks, tops. The fact you have nitrite and nitrate implies that the bacteria are doing their thing. They're just messing about a bit, figuring out the right population size of this mini-ecosystem. Let them settle down. In the meantime... water changes!> Any help you could offer would be wonderful. Thank you, Derrick <Good luck, Neale>

Re: 55 Gallon freshwater water quality problems 11/8/07 Thank you very much. I will do a water change as soon as I get home today. So as for the feeding. If am feeding them every other night right now (feeding one night then skipping the next) how often should I be feeding them if you say to cut back? <As infrequently as possible. No more than 3-4 times per week. Fish can go weeks without food, but ammonia kills in days. Cheers, Neale>

FW Bio-Spira Cycling Questions 11/1/07 Hello. <Hi there> I apologize if this question is going to be lengthy, but I need to make sure I'm doing the right thing so my fish suffer as little as possible. <Take your time> My name is John and I just recently purchased and set up a 75 gallon freshwater tank after having a 20 gallon for a few years. I have basic Comet goldfish (2) and one Pleco. The goldfish are about 6-8" big, and the Pleco is around 4-5" and hasn't grown much in the past year. Not sure what kind he is, but I've heard that they get pretty big. Not sure if mine will, though, since I can't find any pictures that even look like him on the internet. But I digress from my problem. Here's the beginning of the story. In late September I was having issues with water quality in my tank. Previously I had rinsed the power filter, and changed the media (I had a Marineland Penguin 350). I figured that the bacteria would be ok on the BioWheels, but I rinsed them since they were dirty, just like I had done with the tank many times before. In fact, after cleaning the filter, I tested for a week or so and everything was ok, so I figured the wheels were still working just fine. <Rinsed them in tap water I take it> Then my fish started to lose their scales. Just coming off. I checked frantically all over the internet for diseases and did water changes, but nothing was "wrong". All readings were ok, like ammonia and nitrites. Nitrates had always been high in the tank. I had a hard time keeping them under 80-160 ppm just because the tank was so small. <Yes... and trouble> Overfeeding was not happening since my fish would eat within 30 seconds, and as soon as the fish started to not eat the food I'd cease feeding. I usually fed them about once or twice a day. Because of the scale loss, I decided to completely clean the tank. <Yikes> I filled it with untreated, HOT tap water, thinking it would kill anything in the tank, including any diseases that may be in there. I did NOT do anything to the filter or BioWheels. I figured that the majority of the biological filter would be contained in the wheels (since that's what they were for) and I would retain enough bacteria to be alright. <Mmm, with the complete water change, change in chemistry, loss of nutrition, am quite sure you killed off most all your biological filtration> In fact, I figured that there wasn't even any bacteria anywhere else in the tank since they would "prefer" the wheels. I was wrong. <Yes> All of a sudden my ammonia and nitrites went through the roof. So after one week of my fish flashing, and then one night suddenly twitching, I immediately drained the whole tank. Ever since then it has been in constant biological bloom and extreme readings on the ammonia/nitrite readings. I pretty much figured that the week of cleaning my filter killed my wheels, and then the hot water killed the bacteria in the rocks. <Yes> In early October, I decided to finally upgrade the tank (the fish needed it - even if they are only feeder comets, I have a hard time watching anything living suffer). I now have a Rena XP4 with three bags of Bio-Stars, two Bio-Chem Zorbs, and the standard mechanical filtration. I have also added two Seachem Purigen packs to the final basket before the MicroFiltration in order to remove nitrates, since I had so much in my previous tank. After two weeks of having this tank (and using Cycle, which I thought would work like Bio-Spira <Uh, no> - the one time I don't research I get burned, go figure), I'm starting to see extreme nitrite readings (2-5 ppm), and when I cleaned out the filter this weekend (I do NOT clean the stars. learned my lesson from the previous tank) I got a small .5 - 1.00 ammonia spike. <Not small. Deadly toxic at this concentration and elevated pH> I have been doing water changes once a week rather large, between 25 and 50%, and it was helping with the ammonia, but not the nitrites. Because of this, I dosed with 5 times the dosage of Prime in order to "detoxify" the nitrites like it says on the bottle. I did this sometime last week, around Wednesday. <...> I then decided last weekend to get some Bio-Spira to help cycle the tank, <Yay!> after reading the FAQ's here and everywhere else. It was shipped Monday, and I put it in the tank Tuesday night after I received it. The pack was cold, and remained cold in my fridge until after work. <Good> I added the pack straight to my filter (actually took out some of the filter packs and dumped the Bio-Spira right on the stars). It is now Wednesday night and I'm not seeing any effect of the bacteria. Did I kill them with the nitrites being too high? <No> Is that possible? I thought that the bacteria "ate" that stuff, so that it would flourish with higher levels? <Just takes a bit of time...> I've read all the FAQ's online and I've tried to search for conditions that will kill Bio-Spira, but I cannot find anything for the life of me. All I see is that if it is not refrigerated, it will kill the product. <This is about it> Is my tank going to cycle, or have I wasted my money on the bacteria by having the nitrites too high? <Will cycle... patience> Or, worse yet, did I get a bad batch of Bio-Spira, and how do I prove it to the company I purchased it from so I can get another batch? <No need> I'm afraid to do a water change this weekend because I have found in my searches that it could take 5 days for Bio-Spira to cycle a tank, and that water changes could "remove" the bacteria that I spent so much money on and that are so helpful to the tank. I thought it only took a day, thus the purchase and expense of getting it overnight shipped. <I would NOT change the water and NOT feed the fish if there is more than 0.5 ppm of NH3 or NO2 present...> HELP! I don't want to fry (or kill) my fish! They may be originally 12 cent feeder fish, but I've strangely become attached to them. They do seem perfectly normal and even happy to be in a bigger tank, but I know I can (and should) do better for them. Thanks a ton, John Lindsay <Ten deep breaths John... All will be fine in time... Wait. Bob Fenner>

Re: Bio-Spira Cycling Questions 11/1/07 Bob, <John> Thank you for the help. <Welcome> I have a few more follow up questions when you get a chance. <Okay> You were correct about me rinsing my filter in tap water. I had no idea it would cause a problem. I know now thanks to your site. Also, I'm curious what could cause a fish to start losing scales. Could it be the water quality causing this? <Yes my friend. Exactly> I do not notice any parasites or illness in them, so I am thinking that water quality in the previous tank when it crashed caused most of this. I am, however, starting to suspect maybe some fin rot - very little, but not sure entirely what it looks like, so I will do more research. Is this caused by ammonia and nitrite burning? <There are many "dis-eases"... my working definition is: any deviation from a normal or healthy state... Can be classed by causative mechanism/s... e.g. genetic, nutritional, ... in this case: environmental. Disease is not limited to pathogens: infectious, parasitic...> When you say that an ammonia spike of .5-1.00 is deadly (my PH is around 7.6-8.2 depending on when I take the readings) at high PH, I'm curious as to why it does not seem to be affecting my fish. <Classical habituation... you will understand if you take the time to peruse WWM> They seem to be as happy as ever, with good looking gills, and always respond to me walking over to the tank wanting food. On your advice, I will cease to feed them, but I'm not sure for how long. Until the readings go down? <Yes> Goldfish I know can go up to three days without food, but I don't know about my Pleco. Doesn't he need food every night? <Better no food than being toxified by its effects> I assume that decay, regardless where it's from, will cause additional ammonia and nitrites. So, decaying algae wafers will do the same thing, right? <Yes> Another question I have is nitrates. There are a lot of differing opinions (even on your site) as to the level that they should be at for a FW tank. How high is too high, <Mmm... the token standard this time... 20 ppm> and what can too high of nitrates cause in terms of negative impacts to water quality and life, <Many... let's say one bit one this time... retards the RBCs (yes fishes have them too... with the same hemoglobin molecule...) capacity to take up oxygen... very important)...> other than algae blooms? I wouldn't actually mind algae blooms, as I think that would help to keep nitrates in control, plus give my Pleco a more natural source of food. <Mmm, not all forms of algae are palatable... some are toxic in their own right> Just an update - I just tested my readings and it looks like the ammonia has dropped between 0 and .25 ppm and still way too high on the nitrites with a reading between 2 and 5 ppm. I have the API FW test kit so at higher readings it's a bit more difficult to discern the colors. <See my prev. stmt.s re...> Thank you so much for the help. I really appreciate everything and am awed at the response time that I received! I will surely donate to the site as I had planned on it anyway, but if there is anything else I can do to thank you please let me know. John <Thank you for your participation; showing your caring in doing your best for your aquatic charges. Life to you my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: Bio-Spira Cycling Questions... using WWM 11/1/07 Bob, <John> I did a search on WWM for "Classical habituation" and got my answer. I was using different search terms that weren't returning anything. <Shades of B.F. Skinner! Heeeee> I also think that the fin rot that I suspected may actually be the result of almost a month in continuously changing and poor water quality. <Almost assuredly so> I think it is a sign of ammonia poisoning, and not fin rot, starting to rear its head, so I'm glad I decided to finally do something proactive about it instead of waiting for the cycle to finish. <Good idea...> Hopefully my tank cycles soon, and then it will be much easier to take care of my fish. That was the whole plan of a 75 gallon, anyway, compared to the 20 gallon. :) I will continue waiting on the water changes and feeding as you suggested, and will also attempt to maintain 20 ppm of nitrates in my aquarium. I think my tap water is at 5-10 ppm out of the tap, so I might have to find some way to fix this. RO is not really an option since I am in an apartment and I have no room to store it. <Please see WWM re ameliorative processes for limiting NO3...> Do you have any ideas on this? I read that Prime will remove some, but I don't think it's testable due to how Prime works. <... Please... learn to/use the search tool, indices...> I also have Purigen in my canister to try to remove this, but I'm not sure of its ability or effectiveness. Any thoughts? I'll try searching some more on nitrates on WWM, but all I see is water changes fixing this. Is there anything else that can do this? I've seen that skimmers and sumps help in this regard, but those I've read are for saltwater systems. Again, thank you very much for your help. It's hard to find these days when everyone is just concerned about making a buck and moving to the next victim... I mean customer. :) John <Perhaps here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm and the linked files above. BobF> Re: Bio-Spira Cycling Questions 11/1/07 Bob, <John> I know how irritating it must be for someone to ask questions that have already been answered, and I do apologize, but I promise you, I *have* used the search tool and read through the FAQ's on this stuff for at least a month before even thinking about e-mailing... that's how I learned that I killed my tank bacteria and that Cycle was worthless compared to Bio-Spira. <I see> I am not afraid of reading the material, I just don't think I know where to look, or *how* to look for it. My search terms are apparently not working, since you obviously think that the answers to my questions are on the site. <Well... I do "apologize" by way of compassion (from the Latin meaning "to bear pain with") for the lack of intuitive capacity of the site... EricR has just sent a new guide to using the site that I'm posting today... And I am greatly appreciative of your input here... re the search- use-ability of the content here, its arrangement...> I'm relatively new to most of this and I think I'm getting wires crossed with the boatload of information I've read the past week to a month. I have literally sat down and read one FAQ or more per night as well as reading the "guides" on this stuff, and perhaps I'm missing the information that is relevant to me. <Again, I sense your frustration, and am indeed eager to assist you> Perhaps what may be helpful is listing common search terms and then their correct scientific or "inside" terms so that people who are new like me know how to search. Just a suggestion since I hate asking questions that are already answered, wasting your time and irritating you. <An excellent idea... and no irritation from earnest folk who have tried to find what there is...> For example, ameliorative processes would not be something I would ever know to search for, especially related to nitrates. <Sorry re my apparent obtuse- and contriteness... am given to mind wandering too often...> Also, searching on Prime and nitrates/nitrites or even reading the FAQ's/guides on dechlorinating water (what Prime does) and cycling (where Prime keeps down the toxicity) doesn't seem to give me any information which you have obviously pointed me towards. <Ahh, nothing, or not enough of anything of apparent, ready, applicable use...> At least in my mind. All I need usually is a pointer and I will gladly do the rest, especially if it is out there already! The last thing I want to do is waste your time, so again I apologize. :) Thanks, John <Again, it is not a failing on your part, nor particularly of ours... That our language, the development/growth of the Net, our small part, has not gone sufficiently to aid quickly, completely. Let us begin anew John, with particular questions. Bob Fenner>

Re: Bio-Spira Cycling Questions 11/07/07 Bob, <John> Sorry this took so long to send back; my e-mail server was down for the weekend. <No worries> I wanted to mainly ask how Prime works. I know it says it detoxifies ammonia and nitrites, as well as removes nitrates, but how exactly does it to this? <You mean chemically? Do look up the terms sodium thiosulfate (hyposulfite) and Polyvinyl pyrolidone (PVP)... I am not at liberty to state the proprietary formulations of peoples'/companies' products...> More of a broad overview than a detailed chemistry equation is ok with me! I just don't understand how it can leave it in the water but at the same time detoxify it. <Okay> As you recall, my nitrites were in the 5ppm range for over a week, and then last Friday were amazingly down to 0.5ppm. Not sure if the Prime was hindering, or helping with this. <Likely helping... but could be "just time going by", microbial activity mostly> As an update, my tank was fully cycled on Saturday. It has held at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and the nitrates are now high at around 80 ppm. <Yikes!> I will be doing a water change this weekend (I want to make sure the cycle is "stable" and complete before changing the environment). <Good; well-stated> I wanted to also ask you what your view is on bio-media for canister filters. <I use it> In specific, I'm looking to replace the bio-chem stars from Rena with Seachem's Matrix. I was reading some testimonials about this product, and have noticed that it actually supports the growth of bacteria that will remove nitrates. Do these types of products work as claimed, or am I wasting more money? <They can work... have seen sintered glass (e.g. the commercial product Siporax) used in HUGE applications for anaerobic denitrification> I have read on WWM only that spending more on quality bio-media will not allow more fish and only support higher colonies in labs, but nothing on the effectiveness or ability to do as Matrix claims. Bio-chem stars do not claim to remove nitrates at all, so that was the eye-catcher for me. <This is a good product of a worthy company. I only find a few of SeaChem's products more show than go> I am keenly aware that water changes are necessary, and am happy to do them, but I am looking for something to assist me with the removal of nitrates. <As you should> To keep them in the range of 20 ppm like you suggested would require almost daily 50% water changes. In fact, my tap water is around 10ppm. With daily water changes at 50% for a 75 gallon, that amounts to a large volume of water every week, on top of amounts of money spent on Prime. I'm fearful of this much water usage, since currently my water bill is free, but if I go over some arbitrary amount (the landlord states "unusual" amounts of usage) I will be billed for it. <Heeee! Oh yes> I would like to get this down to the average 25-33% weekly changes, or even bi-weekly 50% changes. Do you think this is possible using a relatively easy method, such as Matrix or de*nitrate? <Yes... though there are other means. You have re the use of DSBs, live plants... on WWM?> Again I fear using RO, because I literally have nowhere to store it in my apartment. <Mmm, doesn't take much space... containers of not-too large size in the closet for instance. I am more concerned with the water/use for yourself... drinking and cooking> Thank you so much, John Lindsay <Welcome in kind. Bob Fenner>

Grr....pet store people! ... salt use/FW... cycling prod.s... Using WWM 9/12/07 Good evening to you all! I hope this finds you well. Thanks again for all of your help. I've searched your site for the last few days, reading everything that even remotely applied to my tank/fish in hopes that I can learn new things to watch for so I can head off any problems. I've even read things that didn't apply sometimes because it was just plain interesting. Since our last email, I've added 1 more ADF. The original one spent a lot of time hiding and now comes out to play. I guess he/she was lonely. (I also feel like I should name them.) <Go ahead> I know I'm pushing the limits on what is "too much", but they all seem healthy/happy with no trouble maintaining proper levels. I have been doing a 25-30% water changes with gravel vacuuming twice a week. I'm wondering if I'm doing too much? <Mmm, no, not likely> Also, PetSmart suggested that I add conditioning salt <No...> to my tank because their breeders us it so the fish are accustomed to it. <...> Well, everything I bought from them died. I've asked the nice people at SuperPet and they said that it wouldn't hurt, but they don't use salts. I also use Jungle "Start Right" when doing water changes to treat for chlorine/chloramine. It has Allantoin added to it to "promote slime coat". Isn't that a bit redundant? <Can be> Should I continue with the salt and find another treatment for the chlorine/chloramine? <... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saltusefaqs.htm> Or stop with the salt? Can I just stop using it? Or should I slowly taper the level off? AGH! I promise you (and my fish) that I will never visit PetSmart again! One more thing...Though my water looks clear from a distance, when you get right up on the tank, you can see a hazy kind of something floating all around in the water. I have no idea what this is and can't find any mention of it anywhere on your site. I know this is kind of vague, but any ideas? <Likely a matter of microbial population, lack of established biofiltration... best to not feed... overfeed...> OK, so this is the last thing...lol. Another pet store recommended using Cycle (which I can only assume is comparable to what you all call Bio-Spira <Ah, no... this Hagen product is inferior> (I can't find it anywhere here). It says to use when setting up new aquarium to establish beneficial bacteria, during water changes, and when introducing new fish. Is this a product that you are familiar with and is it needed since I did cycle my tank in the beginning? <Please learn to/use the search tool on WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm> Again, thank you so much for all your time and effort. I am so thankful that I stumbled upon your site (and found it interesting enough to spend the last few days here). You all are a blessing. By the way, I referred to the nice people at SuperPet to your site when I asked them a question that they couldn't answer (but at least they TOLD me they didn't know instead of guessing!). Brandi <Happy to share... Bob Fenner>

Bio-Spira Replacement 5/7/07 Hi guys, Thank you for providing such a fantastic web resource - it's a treasure trove of information! Here is my question: I'm based in Cape Town, South Africa, and can't find Bio Spira _anywhere_ !Could you recommend an alternative? There seem to be hundreds. Thanks again, hope you're all having a smiley day :)- Anusha < You can get Bio-Spira online from Drsfostersmith.com. I am not sure if it would survive the trip from the US. The best alternative would be to get some sand from an established tank at a local fish store. The needed bacteria live on the surface of the sand. Start stocking the tank slowly at first and watch the ammonia and nitrate levels. Aquarists were doing this for a long time before Bio-Spira. I have not heard any good feed back for any other aquarium starter culture.-Chuck>

Cycling Question--Cycle Product is Bunk! 5/4/07 Hello guys, <Hi, Jeni/Pufferpunk here> you might recall I contacted you about an Oranda that got it's eye ripped out with a syphon...He is still alive and seemingly doing well. <Awww... I hope he doesn't get picked on by the others.> I was hoping you guys could help me out again. I have a 45 gal tall tank with 4 gold fish, 2 Orandas, a telescope and a decent size black moor. I think it is cycled but can no longer tell. For a couple of weeks my nitrites were out of control and my nitrates were low, present but low. <When there is 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites & nitrates below 20, you have a healthy, cycled tank.> I went to a fish store that was deemed trustworthy by a friend that has been in the hobby for about 2 years. The OWNER recommended I use "Cycle" in my tank. He said it only has bacteria to work against ammonia and nitrite. <He is completely mistaken. Cycle contains dead bacteria (more waste) & can hinder your cycle. The ONLY product that contains LIVE bacteria is Bio-Spira & can instantly cycle your tank. It MUST be kept refrigerated.> I knew I was towards the end of my cycle and had been testing daily and doing 50-70% water changes daily or every other day. <Good> I added the "Cycle" to my tank and it seemingly did nothing. A week or so goes by and nothing is really changing, maybe a minor drop in Nitrites. I go to a different 'trusted' fish store and the girl there says "you are doing too many water changes, the cycle is in limbo". <Since the nitrifying bacteria lives on surfaces, removing water as often as possible to prevent the fish from being poisoned by ammonia/nitrites is fine & necessary.> She says my options at this point are to stop water changes and either A) over feed to produce waste OR B) use refrigerated 'live' bacteria. <A) Will kill all your fish & should be done as a fishless cycle. B) Is Bio-Spira.> She also goes on to tell me that "Cycle" only masks the test kits (I use aqua pharmaceuticals <Aquarium Pharmaceuticals> liquid drop tests) and that "Cycle" does nothing to progress the real cycling of the tank. <That, she is absolutely correct about.> I chose to over feed, (I was feeding sparingly prior to her advice, a small amount every other day). <Bad move.> Well, after following her advice 2 weeks go by and sure enough slowly my Nitrites are going down BUT my low levels (10-15ppm) of nitrAtes are going down too. So 2 weeks later here I am, with the following test results: Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0. I don't buy those results for the life of me. <I would be hard-pressed to believe a goldfish tank has no nitrates. Try taking the water into your LFS to test with their kits.> ALSO my water started getting white cloudy, which I am told is a 'bacteria bloom' so if that's the case, what the heck is going on in my tank? I fear I have rendered my test kits useless. <Did you add Bio-Spira?> To further make matters worse, my black Oranda has now started gasping for air at the surface, I did a 10% change tonight and lowered the water level to let the filters (Whisper 4 and a Bio-Wheel) pour into the tank to agitate the surface more, plus I took my airstones out of the gravel to make the bubbles finer. <Good moves. The bacterial bloom is reducing O2.> I don't think I asked any direct question but I could really use some advice, We JUST bought a 75 gallon tank for the goldfish because we thought the tank was cycled but now with the weird tests we are weary of transferring them, so any help would be great. <Start up the 75g ASAP. Get enough Bio-Spira to cycle that sized tank. Add it to the filter & add the fish immediately afterwards. Whala! Instantly cycled tank! Easy, huh? I suggest multiple filtration, as your fish grow. I'd say, the largest Aquaclear filter they make & a canister filter, like the Eheim. Until then, do 80-90% water changes daily on the present tank. Use Prime for dechlorinating & detoxifying ammonia/nitrite/nitrate. Most goldfish keepers do 90% water changes weekly, as these fish are extremely messy fish & produce a lot of waste.> Thanks guys keep up the good work. <Good luck! For future letters to us, please be sure your i's are capitalized, when used as a pronoun, as well as the letters in the beginning of sentences. I have corrected all that here, for posting in our FAQs. ~PP>

Bio-Spira + Amquel = Uncycled Tank 3/9/07 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I started a new tank using Bio-Spira (75 gallon tank). I got a little crazy with the Amquel, which resulted in a lower pH and now I'm wondering what else its resulted in. <Amquel shouldn't lower your pH. If you read the directions on the Bio-Spira package though, it says not to use any ammonia-removing products with it. The bacteria in Bio-Spira needs ammonia to live.> My ammonium <ammonia?> went up and went down. My nitrites started down, went up, then up again, then up again and now I have no idea where the reading should be but it's a real pretty shade of purple. The nitrates stayed low until recently, now it's on the rise but the nitrites are holding steady. My fish are eating, swimming, seem relaxed but I'm extremely worried and willing to do anything in my power to keep those beautiful dollar bills swimming. I'm mainly writing to find out if Amquel is skewing my test on the nitrites. Please let me know. About the only thing left to buy is snake oil and the only thing stopping me is finding the salesman. <Now why would you want to go and do that? Using anything other than Bio-Spira to cycle your tank, will only hinder the cycle. Get another package of Bio-Spira and add to your filter, after doing an 80% water change to remove the nitrites & Amquel. You tank should be fine within 24-48 hours. Next time, please be sure to correct your capitalization & punctuation, before sending out your email to us. I have to correct them before they are posted in our FAQs. Very time consuming. Another Crewmember might have returned this email unanswered, for correction. Thanks, PP>

Fishless Cycle Mistake 2/12/07 Good Day, <And to you> I'll make this short and sweet. I was attempting to fishless cycle my 29 gallon tank which contains Ecco-Complete Cichlid Sand for substrate and an Eheim 2215 filter. I purchased "clear ammonia" from Shaw's and added 8ml to my tank; <Yikes... this is a BUNCH... too much ammonia presence actually kills all life... including nitrifying bacteria... I imagine (though barely) that too many pizzas would kill even me!> however, I neglected to give the ammonia the "shake test" before I added it to my tank. (I know, big mistake) Of course I shook the bottle and it foamed indicating that the ammonia contains surfactants, and now I don't know what to do. Please help? <Oh!...> The tank is empty besides the 40 lbs of Ecco-Complete Cichlid Sand.. and of course 29 gallons of water. I have carbon in the filter that is only a week old. Could that help take care of the surfactants? <Mmm, yes> I realize that I may have to empty my tank and rinse everything, which, of course is very frustrating. If this is what you recommend, Is there a way that I can keep some of my bacteria alive through out the process. Many thanks! Dan <I would likely dump, rinse and re-fill this tank... If you have the patience... you could try waiting a few weeks, testing (for free ammonia) and trying a test fish or two... Bob Fenner>

Re: Fishless Cycle Mistake 2/13/07 Good Morning: <Daniel> I just wanted to clarify a point with regards to my fishless cycle question. Yes, 8ml is a lot of ammonia; however, I did some research on the ammonia that I used and found that it only contains 2% ammonia. 8ml of this product brought my ammonia to 3ppm, 2ppm shy of the recommended 5ppm. <I recommend no more than 1 ppm, but good point... this is quite a dilute solution commercially> I ended up draining the tank and cleaning everything with water that I treated with prime in an attempt to save as much bacteria as I could. I went out and bought a product called "Austin's Clear Ammonia", and after checking with the manufacturer to make sure the product is pure I'm starting the entire process again. <Better by far to "start" with an organic source of ammonia (protein)... food... that will provide a steady supply...> With the help of a nasty filter cartridge from a locally owned trusted LFS <Ah, good> I'm hoping to put some fish in it soon. Thank you so much for your help! Your site is simply awesome! <Thank you for this follow-up, clarification. Bob Fenner>

Bio-Spira Confusion 1/24/07 Dear WWM Crew, <Hi Katie, Pufferpunk here with you tonight.> My first tank, which I cycled 2 years ago, was cycled with fish (I now know better). <Glad to hear it.> That cycle progressed in a straightforward, linear fashion, which made sense as I tested my water each day. I now have an 7-day-old freshwater 26-gallon bowfront. I used Bio-Spira to cycle the tank and I am confused on the progression of cycling. The LFS said to put fish in, wait a day to get some ammonia going, then shake and empty the refrigerated product into the tank. <I always suggest pouring directly into the filter, then immediately stock the tank with fish. I would think if you let the ammonia be produced by the fish 1st, not only are the fish suffering ammonia poisoning, the B-S will have to deal with more ammonia than if added at the same time as the fish. This is how it's meant to work.> I wanted to start with 6 white clouds and 4 Rasbora but they said that might not generate enough ammonia, so I added to that 4 Cory cats. <Although B-S is made to be able to instantly cycle a fully stocked tank, a smaller amount of bioload will suffice.> I brought them home, put them in the tank that had been filled and running for a day (after floating the bag). The next day I fed them in the morning and put the Bio-Spira in at night. I was testing the water daily and for the first few days, nothing--no ammonia, nitrites, nitrates; the water was cloudy, which I read on the Marineland website was normal. Then I started getting ammonia readings around day 4, still no nitrites, then by day 6 (yesterday), my ammonia appeared to be a "2" on my color chart. I was alarmed and performed a 50% water change. <Should be fine after 48 hours of adding B-S. You can add Prime to dechlorinate & detoxify ammonia to a non-toxic form of ammonia that can still be eaten by the bacteria.> I then went to the LFS to buy another pouch of Bio-Spira, thinking that perhaps my bacteria died while waiting for enough ammonia to be produced. But the LFS said I shouldn't have done the water change, that the ammonia is rendered harmless by the Bio-Spira and that now I may have diluted the Bio-Spira too much to work. <The B-S should have been attached to the surfaces of your tank by the 4 days & wouldn't be free-floating in your tank.> I was under the impression, having read it frequently, that Bio-Spira cycles "overnight". Even if that's exaggerating, I can't seem to find information regarding what type of cycling progression to expect (i.e. will I ever even see nitrites in my testing?) I bought another pouch, which is currently in my fridge. Ammonia is .5 today but I am now getting a trace reading of nitrates! The store said that my cycling would proceed normally (i.e., I'll get ammonia readings, then nitrites, then nitrates) but it will just not take as long as cycling without the Bio Spira--that it should take 3-4 weeks. Why do I see trace nitrates when I have not gotten any nitrites? <Totally incorrect. If the B-S has been kept properly refrigerated the whole time, you will see no ammonia or nitrites & trace nitrates, after a few days of adding the product & stocking the tank.> Is it true that ammonia is rendered harmless by the Bio-Spira? <Yes> Does Bio-Spira work overnight or take 4 weeks? <Overnight> Should I add the second pouch? <Couldn't hurt. Or you could try the Prime & water changes & see how it goes.> I'm so confused. Thank you for helping me with this. By the way, all the other water parameters are normal and temp is within tropical range. <There's good info explaining B-S at this website & these folks know a lot about the product, if you're having problems with it. http://fishstoretn.com/bio_spira.html A lot of research has gone into this product. If you're really into scientific jargon, read this: http://www.marineland.com/science/nspira.asp I think the biggest problem folks have with B-S is that if it hasn't been kept refrigerated, from Marineland to the tank, it will starve, rendering it useless or at the very least, not enough live bacteria to fully cycle a tank properly. I hope this helps. ~PP> Katie

Start Up Cycling Products Hi, I set up my new 46 gallon tank just 2 days ago and used a product called Cycle by Hagen. The product has been in the tank for around 36 hours and the water looks cloudy (I realize this is normal). I do not know how quickly this product can cycle the tank completely, but I heard Marineland's Bio Spira can completely cycle a tank within 24 hours. Do you know how much the product by Hagen speeds up the process? Do you think ammonia and nitrites would be at 0 in a week or so, or should I get some of the Bio Spira if I want results that quickly? If I do get the Bio Spira, would it be ok to add it to the tank since the Hagen product is already in there? Thanks <I have all of my tanks for many years. I usually give someone and old used sponge filter and tell them to "ring it out" into their tank to get the bacteria started. If you have a Marineland filter with a Bio-Wheel then I would just swap wheels. Trade a new one for a used cycled one. I have many friends with aquarium maintenance businesses and they have tried all the cycling products. They all use Bio-Spira. It works when it says it does. I would recommend the Bio-Spira and get your tank up and going the weekend.-Chuck>

Re: Adding Bio-Spira To A Maybe Established Tank Thank you very much. I will use the Bio Spira, will it matter that it will be going in the tank after a different cycling product was already used? <No, go ahead and use it. Medications may affect the biological filtration.-Chuck>

Re: Adding Fish To A New Tank, FW Cycling 1/14/07 One more question: should I put fish food in the tank as a source of ammonia so that the Bio Spira bacteria has something to feed on until the fish are put in the tank? < The bacteria need something to eat or they will go dormant. Put in the Bio-Spira as per the directions on the package. It will last until you add the fish, as long as you do not wait too long.-Chuck.>

Hagen "Cycle", Bogus? 11/9/06 <Hi Cody, Pufferpunk here> I have a question that I could not find but a few topics on. That is the product Hagen Cycle. I have set up a 55 gallon freshwater tank, with gravel and a tetra whisper hang on filter, rated for 60 gallons. The filter has 2 bio filters on them. No fish have been added, nor will any until the tank completely cycles. Anyway, my question was I purchased the Hagen Cycle before I read any reviews, and they all say its bogus! <Absolutely, the stuff is total bunk! It's nothing but dead bacteria in a bottle. > I did come across a few reviews that said it was good to pour the whole bottle in to get a few bacteria going but that it lacked necessary ingredients to get it fully cycled. My question is would adding the entire bottle, which I bought the smallest one, be a major set back to getting my tank cycled? Also, I plan to add live plants, should I plant them before or after the cycle completes? <Return that junk. The only product that contains LIVE nitrifying bacteria to "instant cycle" your tank is Bio-Spira. Nothing else will work. You can also do a fishless cycle (just do a search) but that will take a few weeks. If you do decide to go the Bio-spire route, you should pour it into your filter then you can fully stock your tank the same day. You must add fish or you'll have to feed the bacteria with ammonia. You can plant the tank before cycling it. Might even help it along. ~PP> Great website! Thanks, Cody

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