The Fishless Cycle
Once you start to cycle (all methods) do no cleaning. Messing with your tank removes the bacteria and starts your cycle over again. This can not be stressed enough. Do not change the gravel, mess with the filters and play around with pH adjusters, etc. If you do, you will delay the cycling process. No water changes are needed doing the fishless cycle.
Bacteria grows faster in warmer temperatures with lots of oxygen so turn your heater up to 82 and add an air stone or bubbler if you have one.
Unless you have well water, you must always use a de-chlorinator. The chlorine in your water supply will kill bacteria immediately. Many water municipals also use chloramines as a means of sterilization so get a product that removes chlorine and chloramines. Most water conditioners now do both. Storing water does not remove chloramines.
There is more than one way to do a “fishless cycle”. You can feed the tank fish flakes or use a piece of “raw” shrimp or fish in a nylon stocking and anchor it to the bottom of the tank. (Must be underwater and may get stinky.) Many are now using PURE ammonia to get the level up instantly rather than waiting for shrimp or flakes to rot. This article is only about cycling with pure ammonia.
HOW MUCH AMMONIA TO ADD: Now pay attention!!!!
This is determined by the size of your tank. A 55 gallon will be stocking more fish than a 10 gallon so obviously you need to grow more bacteria in larger tanks. You also have larger filters on larger tanks for the bacteria to grow in.
No one can tell you how many drops it will take to bring your ammonia level up to a correct dosage so this is why you need a tester. If you have a tank of perhaps 40 gallon and up, ammonia can be added to read between 4-5ppm’s to get your cycle started.
If your tank is a small tank, will hold only a few fish and has a small filter, then you should began your cycle with far less ammonia…..perhaps only 1-2ppms. You do not need to grow a ton of bacteria for a few small fish.
If you are in doubt about the ammonia to purchase, give it a good shake. If it foams, do not buy it. If it forms a few bubbles at the top that quickly break up, then it is OK to purchase. Read the label. If scents or detergents are added do not buy it. It will be listed on the label or ingredient list.
Add some ammonia to your tank, wait for it to get circulated by the filter and then test. If it needs a tad more, then add a tad more. And then DO NOTHING! Leave the tank alone. Nothing is going to happen for several days so no point in wasting testing solutions and fretting over the cycle yet.
(Make sure you have added dechlorinator when you set the tank up.)
After a few days, began to test for ammonia levels. Nitrosomona bacteria needs time to grow. As it grows, ammonia levels will slowly began to drop. Slowly at first but as more bacteria grows, ammonia levels will drop very quickly.....within hours.
You should began to very soon see nitrites, perhaps after only dosing the tank once or twice. When that happens, now only add ammonia of one/half of your original dose when you started. Ammonia is only redosed when previous dose has dropped to 0 and only one time a day.
Nitrites will continue to climb each day, also growing bacteria. You may have nitrites register on your tester for a couple weeks but one day you will check and they will be 0. That is when you have your cycled tank! You will have high nitrAtes when you tank is done cycling. Do a large water change to bring those nitrates down to under 20 and you can began to add your fish.
If for some reason there will be a delay in adding fish at this time, add a wee bit of ammonia each day to your tank to keep that bacteria fed. But make sure those numbers are 0 before adding any fish.
A faster cycle is achieved by adding used filter media from another fish tank. If you have a friend that has a tank, steal some of his filter media. If you can not do that, have him vacuum his gravel and give you the nasty stuff he pulls up. (Mulm)
Bacterium does not live in the water so transferring of water will not help with a faster cycle.
Bacteria Boosters are not used for fishless cycling. It does no good to add ammonia and then dump in a booster that reduces the ammonia.
There are several reasons that a fishless cycle may fail.
1/ Not using a de-chlorinator
2/ Not reducing the amount of ammonia during the nitrite stage.
3/ Changing your filter media or cleaning the gravel or adding chemicals that you don’t need to add.
4/ Not having the patience to wait for the nitrite levels to drop.
5/ Over-dosing ammonia by starting with too much or adding more than once a day.
You should be able to achieve a fishless cycle in 3 weeks or less. Not everyone has the same results in cycling. Water temperature, oxygen, hardness and softness of each persons water makes cycling all a bit different for each of us. Do not get frustrated or think you have done something wrong if your cycle does not go exactly as another persons cycle went for them.
Cycling a tank is easy. People make it hard !!
Your fish will thank you for not subjecting them to toxic water conditions and taking the time to cycle the tank before bringing them home.
Last edited by Lady Hobbs; 10-10-2012 at 12:39 AM.
On a personal note:
Much is said in forums regarding surfactants found in ammonia and can be highly debated because no one seems to know exactly what surfactants are. Surfactant is an ingredient that helps the product mix with water. It is not soap but is an additive to soap to keep grease from forming on top of the water. It is added to inks, paints, hair conditioners and many other products to aid the water in the product to mix with the other ingredients.
There are different kinds of Surfactants which also adds to some confusion. The Surfactants that are in ammonia is not the same Surfactants added to other products.
If you have any doubts regarding using ammonia with surfactants, then make sure you buy ammonia that does not list it as an ingredient. Shake that ammonia up. If it foams, do not use it. If it gets a few bubbles on top that pop right away, then it is fine to use.
If scents or detergents are added to the ammonia, it will say so in the ingredient list.