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Cycling a heavily planted tank

Gikas1

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Hey everyone I'm quite new in heavily planted aquaria but I owned a light planted one for several years now... So I've heard from several people/sources that I need to cycle my (not yet purchased) heavily planted 200ltr tank with ammonia or other sources (food, already cycled media etc.) and from several others that I do not have to because the plants will eventually (in about a month and a half) do the cycling themselves... All I have to do until then is dosing a reduced amount of ferts and doing a water change about 2 times a week (also something I think you shouldn't do that much while cycling with ammonia for example)... So what would you suggest I should do? Will adding ammonia kill my plants or will the ammonia-less cycle work and I just add a few fish at a time after leaving it a month or so?

Many thanks for any advice!
 

John q

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HI and welcome to UKAPS, follow these links and they should answer your question.
 

Gikas1

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HI and welcome to UKAPS, follow these links and they should answer your question.
Many thanks for the threads! I've read them both in detail and my question is mostly answered! Just one more question... Will all of this work with a substrate like flourite or with soil only?
 

John q

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Truth is it works with any substrate, if you use ada, seachem or similar soil then by default your tank will be ladend with ammonia, this may, or may not impeded the cycling process, however folks will tell you not to add ammonia, unless it's disguised in aqua soil.
 
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Gikas1

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Truth is it works with any substrate, if you use ada, seachem or similar soil then by default your tank will be ladend with ammonia, this may, or may not impeded the cycling process, however folks will tell you not to add ammonia, unless it's disguised in aqua soil.
So if I understand correctly... The bacteria inside the aquarium don't need the added ammonia because they will feed of the detritus supplied by plants as they grow with help from the oxygen supplied by the plants... Is that right?
 

John q

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Well the answer to that question is probably above my pay scale, however somebody like Darrel @dw1305 will given you a far more detailed and scientific response.

The way I see it is fairly simplified,.. basic life forms (bacteria) require two key elements, they need to breathe (oxygen) and they need a food source (nitrogen) the oxygen comes via water circulation (your filter) and the food source, asumming you've an inert substrate will be provided by the decomposition of plant matter and anything else that happens to inhabit and decompose in the tank water.

I must admit I'm somewhat of a convert, nature will find a way to stabilise itself, it really doesn't need the intervention of mankind to succeed.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
however somebody like Darrel @dw1305 will given you a far more detailed and scientific response.
I'll have a go.
So if I understand correctly... The bacteria inside the aquarium don't need the added ammonia because they will feed of the detritus supplied by plants as they grow with help from the oxygen supplied by the plants... Is that right?
Pretty much.

Traditional View
The <"traditional view of the nitrogen cycle"> was a linear process, where numbers of very specific ammonia oxidising bacteria (AOA) had to build up before the number of nitrite oxidising bacteria would rise (in response to the elevated levels of nitrite (NO2)) and they would oxidise that NO2 to nitrate (NO3).

You knew where you'd got to in the "cycle" by <"water testing"> for TAN (NH3/NH4+), NO2- and NO3-. Plants, if they were mentioned at all, were seen as either unimportant or actively damaging in causing the cycle to "stall".

Personally I always had my <"doubts about cycling">.

What we know now
The specific ammonia oxidising bacteria <"don't actually occur in aquarium filters">, that <"plant/microbe biofiltration"> can process much larger bioloads than <"microbe only"> biofiltration and that oxygen is the prime metric in nitrification.

It has really been the development of <"DNA based methods of looking for microbes"> that has fuelled the massive increase in our knowledge <"about aquarium nitrification">.

cheers Darrel
 

Gikas1

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Thank you all so much for your extremely informative responses I am completely covered now!

I must say this is one of the most helpful aquarium forums I've been in and I wish I found it sooner as it would have saved me the headache haha
 

Aqua360

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I literally never "cycle" tanks, I add plants, once they start growing, slowly add to the bioload and it's smooth sailing from there.

I think a lot of problems occur from people overstocking their aquariums to huge proportions, while it is hard to gauge on individual cases, common sense is often sorely lacking.
 

Marcia

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I literally never "cycle" tanks, I add plants, once they start growing, slowly add to the bioload and it's smooth sailing from there.

I think a lot of problems occur from people overstocking their aquariums to huge proportions, while it is hard to gauge on individual cases, common sense is often sorely lacking.
Sorry for jumping in the thread, but do you ever feel the need to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate? I do want to feel confident with planted aquarium system but sometimes I’m not sure if I’m doing enough? (enough plants? enough bioload? light? fertilisers? etc). it’s hard when you’re a beginner and you have no other experience… that’s how we fall prey to testing/cycling/buying products I guess… then I do a the whole lot of test and I honestly don’t know exactly what I’m reading? or maybe it’s just me? 🤔
 

Aqua360

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Sorry for jumping in the thread, but do you ever feel the need to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate? I do want to feel confident with planted aquarium system but sometimes I’m not sure if I’m doing enough? (enough plants? enough bioload? light? fertilisers? etc). it’s hard when you’re a beginner and you have no other experience… that’s how we fall prey to testing/cycling/buying products I guess… then I do a the whole lot of test and I honestly don’t know exactly what I’m reading? or maybe it’s just me? 🤔
I don't test at all, outside of TDS (total dissolved solids) and temperature.

I stock lightly, and water change generously and regularly enough with enough plant biomass to not be worried.

You can tell a lot about the health of your tank via the plants and more, dw1305 has a good thread on "the duckweed index" which is worth checking out.
 

aec34

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it’s hard when you’re a beginner and you have no other experience… that’s how we fall prey to testing/cycling/buying products I guess…
I know what you mean. When I got into planted tanks I did start with a test kit since I’d had an experience with poor fish keeping which still makes me feel guilty. I did find it useful at first as a way of thinking through what might be changing in the tank, rather than trying to chase ‘ideal parameters’. It made me learn about how complex water actually is by then reading around what I was seeing. Now I just observe changes in the plants/algae and tweak things as needed, eg needs a clean, change lighting period, move away from window. My experience is also that there will be some plants you struggle to grow. And that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing everything wrong!
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
but do you ever feel the need to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate?
I used to test the water occasionally, I look after a lab. and we have the <"potential to test for most solutes">.
outside of TDS (total dissolved solids) and temperature.
Same for me now.

I think the first thing to say is that <"we aren't anti-testing">, and there are test kits and meters that give you <"accurate and repeatable results"> over the full range of fresh-water types you are likely to meet in the aquarium.

Whether testing offers any real advantage depends on the level of analytical kit you have access to, and how much time (and money) you want to spend. Nitrite (NO2-) is relatively straightforward to test for using colormetric methods, but there are issues with measuring both ammonia/ammonium (NH3/NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-), mainly to do with their solubility.
You can tell a lot about the health of your tank via the plants and more, dw1305 has a good thread on "the duckweed index" which is worth checking out.
Because of the problems with accurate water testing, I use a proxy to <"estimate nitrate levels">. Basically you have a floating plant and you observe <"its growth and leaf colour">, the aim is just to keep it green and growing. Originally I used Common Duckweed (Lemna minor) for the <"Duckweed Index">, but I now recommend Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) as my "Duckweed" of choice.

If you have time look at <"Few problems......."> (from that post to the end of the thread and all the linked threads).

cheers Darrel
 
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sparkyweasel

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I stopped testing years ago and haven't looked back since.
Just done a quick calculation, - I have saved over £4000 with no downside. I wish I'd put the money in a savings account every time I would have been buying test kits. :)

I tested every Wednesday. What if there had been an ammonia spike on a Friday? Testing wouldn't have told me about it, or prevented it, or helped to fix it.

What if a fish looked sick, but without any obvious parasites etc?
I could test for ammonia; if positive - change some water and look for sources of pollution.
If negative, test for nitrite; if positive - change some water and look for sources of pollution.
If negative, I still don't know what's wrong, but something must be, - therefore change some water and look for sources of pollution.

Or I could save time and money; fish look ill? Change some water and look for sources of pollution.
 

tam

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I think it depends on what your routine too - for example if you are doing big regular changes, your water is going to be close to tap plus your ferts. If you are not doing such big changes (often lower tech too) you might find testing, at least at first for nitrate will give you a sense for whether your water change routine is keeping things stable (nitrate staying stead) or needs a bit more doing (nitrate gradually rising). I would say testing is more likely to be helpful in the beginning, and less so once you and the tank have established the routine and how that tank runs.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Just done a quick calculation, - I have saved over £4000 with no downside.
I think the £4000 is the downside, not for you, but for the business model that the vendors use.

They are selling products that they <"know are useless">, or in some cases actively damaging. I've got a jaundiced view, but I think that the whole business edifice rests on keeping people teetering on the brink of <"real (or imagined) disaster">. I'm sure in the long term <"a bit of honesty"> would be better for all concerned (fish-keepers, LFS, product manufacturers) because people wouldn't stagger from disaster to disaster and would actually enjoy their fish and aquariums, and thus be much more likely to stay in the hobby in the long term.

I hope to see us reach the "sunlit uplands", but I don't think it is a foregone conclusion.

cheers Darrel
 
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