Fishless cycle question

Discussion in 'General Planted Tank Discussions' started by jonesy, 20 Oct 2009.

  1. jonesy

    jonesy Member

    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    Liverpool
    Been collecting the bits needed to start my nano tank and currently have a fishbox 48 liter tank, tetratec ex600 filter, cal aqua lily pipes, and hydor 200w inline heater, but my question is can you cycle a tank without the substrate just a full tank of water then remove 75% of the water to add the substrate plants etc. Reason i ask as i still need to buy my oliver knott substrate which is £50 plus i was looking at a boyu 3x8w t5 light from ebay so whilst i was saving up to get those which would tank about 3 to 4 weeks i could cycle the tank in the mean time.

    also anyone got any experiance with the boyu lights from ebay and will it be enough for a 48 liter planted tank. cheers steve
     
  2. Dolly Sprint 16v

    Dolly Sprint 16v Member

    Messages:
    1,611
    Location:
    Cheshire
    Steve
    Would be better off waiting until you have purchase all your equipement then start - IMO your not going to gain anything. You need the bacteria within the substrate to help mature the water - so hang on until you have everything.
    Regards
    Paul.
     
  3. jonesy

    jonesy Member

    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    Liverpool
    ahh ok thanks for the reply, any suggestions on lighting will be planted with Hemianthus callitrichoides, Pogostemon helferi, Staurogyne sp, and possibly some sort of red stem plant will be dosing easycarbo dosing at the start probably moving onto co2 depending on growth rate. cheers steve
     
  4. Animal Mother

    Animal Mother Member

    Messages:
    54
    It wouldn't do any harm in fishlessly cycling the tank before you put the substrate in. :thumbup:

    The majority of nitrifying bacteria live in the filter media so if the tank (and filter) are fully cycled you won't have any issues.

    Well done for going down the fishless cycle route. :clap: :thumbup:
     
  5. Dolly Sprint 16v

    Dolly Sprint 16v Member

    Messages:
    1,611
    Location:
    Cheshire
    Animal Mother

    Puting the substrate in at a later date is a daft idea, no matter how many times you pre wash the substrate prior to putting in the tank it will still contain some dirt, debris etc. So you would be prepared to put substrate in your tank once you have got nice clean cycled water. If you review the journal section a lot of people put the substrate into the tank, add the hard landscape, add the plants and then fill the tank, I made the mistake of planting after cycling the tank and by the time I had finished what a mess - let me put it this way - Trent & Mersey canal looked in better condition, talk about dirty / merky water, it was that bad that I drained all the water out, rang my LFS and asked for 250 ltr of their water. No problems they said - of which I was grateful of their water.

    Regards
    paul.
     
  6. ellena

    ellena Member

    Messages:
    40
    Flyfisherman, as animal mother said, it's the filter you cycle and that's where all the bacteria live. Virtually none live in the water, so you can completely change all your water and still be cycled. Your LFS water will have been little different to tap water apart from conditioner which you can easily add yourself.
    Dirty/murky water simply means there is dirt suspended in it which mechanical filtration will eventually remove, nothing to do with bacteria/cycling at all.
     
  7. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

    Messages:
    1,389
    Location:
    N. Wales
    Ellena, I think Paul was just questioning as to why bother adding substrate at a later date and making an unholy mess.

    Being a planted tank forum, perhaps we should be discussing getting the conditions right so that there is no need to cycle the tank at all.

    Dave.
     
  8. Dolly Sprint 16v

    Dolly Sprint 16v Member

    Messages:
    1,611
    Location:
    Cheshire
    Dave

    Spot on :thumbup: you and I are singing of the same hymm sheet :thumbup:

    I had my tank cycled and then found out I had not got enough substrate for a planted tank so I decided to remove the old substrate and refill with new, let it cycle and add the plants at a later day "OH WHAT A MISTAKE" put it this way the langollan "Welsh" canel looked in better condition than what my water looked like.

    Regards
    Paul.
     
  9. Animal Mother

    Animal Mother Member

    Messages:
    54
    o_O

    You ALWAYS have to cycle the tank.
     
  10. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

    Messages:
    1,389
    Location:
    N. Wales
    When I first start up a new planted tank, I have a different goal to those that start their tanks with a fishless cycle. My aim is to maximise plant growth from the word go to produce healthy, vibrant plant growth, and create an environment hostile to algae blooms.

    The fishless cycle requires the addition of ammonia, which is instantly a no no for planted tanks.

    Light + ammonia = possibly green water and other alga.

    If you absolutely have to fishless cycle on a tank that you intend on planting, then I strongly recommend the cycling is carried out in the dark, and the plants are added once the cycle is complete. Personally, I advocate that you don’t bother going down this long path, and save yourself a lot of time and effort by starting your planted tank with the goal mentioned in the first paragraph; “healthy, vibrant plant growth” from the word go. A fishless cycle establishes a large, robust bacteria colony that is suddenly going to be in competition with plants for ammonia, and plants are very efficient at ammonia processing, and get first dibs. The bacteria that you have just spent the last six weeks developing is going to reduce in number once healthy plant growth is established, so why bother in the first place? Certainly it is because fish need to be added to a tank that can process their waste before they reach toxic levels. Well, this can be achieved in a planted tank before the bacteria colony is fully established.

    The following is my own preferred method and, while many experienced planted tank people will have variations on my methods, the fundamentals remain the same.

    MULM
    Firstly, I take the mulm (substrate detritus) from an existing tank, and put it below the new substrate. Obviously, this wasn’t an option on my first ever tank, but it is worth using mulm if it available to you. Why?

    There is a popular belief that there is a minimal amount of nitrifying bacteria in the substrate. This may be true in unplanted tanks, and I am not entirely sure, but plants and their roots are covered in nitrifying bacteria. The roots bring a lot of aeration to the substrate and help to make an environment that is beneficial to the types of nitrifying bacteria we nurture in our filters. By adding mulm we are introducing a good sized colony of nitrifying bacteria at root level and creating a healthy environment in which the roots can quickly become established.
    Personally, I trim the roots back a fair bit to aid planting (Crypts are a good example), but try to promote new root growth as soon as possible.

    It is also known to use carbon in the substrate to absorb any toxins present that may inhibit initial root growth and health.

    CO2
    I run the CO2 at elevated levels that would be lethal to any fish or shrimp, just to ensure there is no CO2 limitation anywhere in the tank that could start any localised algae blooms. This is backed up with a high flow rate of water via over filtration and/or power heads to transport all nutrients to the four corners of the tank, along with surface disturbance to help keep O2 levels up. Once any fauna is due to be added, the CO2 is throttled back and established 30ppm, but getting the CO2 levels and distribution correct from the start is essential to avoid algae issues.

    ZEOLITE
    I don’t think a great deal of people in the UK bother with Zeolite a great deal, but it is popular in the US and I swear by it for algae control in immature planted tanks. It will absorb the ammonia being produced and remove a possible trigger for an algae bloom. My latest tank was started without Zeolite as I didn’t have any, and I have witnessed brown diatoms for the first time since I started using Zeolite. People say brown diatoms are inevitable in a new tank, but this is not the case in my experience. Remove the ammonia, remove the diatoms.

    This will instantly raise the question in many peoples mind “won’t it starve the bacteria colony?” No, not in my or anyone else’s opinion that use Zeolite, that I have read. The Zeolite provides a large surface area and a large supply of ammonia to nitrosomonas bacteria. Why wouldn’t the bacteria want to move in to this environment? Exhausted Zeolite just becomes filter media.

    The other thing to add about using Zeolite I am not aware of anyone having problems with ammonia leeching back in to the water column. Certainly not from those that have used it. People remove the Zeolite, see an ammonia spike, and then blame the Zeolite for having starved their bacteria colony, making it incapable of supporting the fish load. In reality, what they have done is removed a significant percentage of their nitrifying colony when they removed the Zeolite.

    DOSING AND WATER CHANGES
    I dose at full levels from day one. If the aim is to promote plant growth from the outset, then why would we hold back on the dosing for any given period? Water changes are carried out daily at around 50% water volume for the first week or two to remove algae spores and inhibit unprocessed ammonia levels. This becomes a bit of a chore on larger tanks, and is probably slackened off to just once a week more rapidly than on smaller tanks. Personally, I am usually at my normal water change of 50% once a week after the first month.

    PLANTING LEVELS
    For the inexperienced, getting planting levels right, along with non limiting CO2 throughout the tank are really key to the early success of the tank. Insufficient plant mass and/or CO2 will limit/inhibit plant growth, and open the door to algae blooms. For the inexperienced I would recommend the advice I was first given, which was to plant 75% of the substrate with fast growing stems. This will provide a large ammonia processing factory, and algae blooms will be suppressed by a healthy mass of fast growing plants. With more experience it is possible to start a tank with a lot less plant mass, but this will also require a lot more knowledge of controlling light intensity and photoperiod duration. Lighting is a whole other subject that is covered elsewhere, as are dosing methods.

    MISCELLANEOUS
    Other little bits of advice that I think help to establish an immature planted tank are, don’t be afraid to introduce pest snails if you are not too bothered by their appearance. All my tanks have small snail populations that eat rotting vegetation and detritus. A boom in the number of snails is an indication of excessive fish food in the tank. The population is easily managed, simply by not overfeeding your fish. Secondly, remove any apparently poor plant growth/leaves, as they will not get better, and will only contribute to the ammonia levels.

    From the above, some of you may come to the conclusion that I came too when I first started reading about EI dosing planted tanks. A newly planted, healthy tank showing positive growth signs will be processing ammonia at a rate that makes it possible to add fish long before it is possible using the fishless cycle. On my first tank I used common sense, and added fish to a 120l tank at the rate of five Cardinal tetras a week. I had no problems at all adding these supposedly sensitive fish, which were the first fish I ever bought, or added to a tank.

    Personally, I really concentrate on CO2 levels from the start these days, which means I don’t add fish until a month or two in to the aquascapes life.

    To anyone wanting to start a planted tank:

    Why bother adding ammonia daily and running all those tests?

    Why bother building up a large bacteria colony, only for it to reduce once you stop adding ammonia?

    Why bother running the risk of algae?

    Why bother waiting all those frustrating weeks before you get any fish?

    Not having to cycle a planted tank is a huge benefit IMO, and one we should all use, where possible. Fish only people will have to carry on fishless cycling, but we don’t have to. How cool is that?

    Dave.
     
  11. jonesy

    jonesy Member

    Messages:
    88
    Location:
    Liverpool
    thanks for that mini guide dave hopefully it will make my tank blossom from the start :thumbup:
     

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