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Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. Default How long does good bacteria thrive in water that is uninhabited for a month and half?

    0 Not allowed!
    I moved fish from an old tank to a new tank about a month and half ago. The old tank still had 98% of its water in it (5.5g) and it was mostly filthy with so much fish poop accumulation because it went uncleaned for about 2-3 months. It had a lot of gravel in it and one rock. Now someone else will take over this old tank. I ended up cleaning it, taking all the water and gravel out to clean it out as much as I can with all the algae that formed. My question is - someone told me that I should have kept the water because it had good bacteria in it, but I read elsewhere that the bacteria usually dies after a certain period of inactivity. Does anyone know how long good bacteria lasts?


  2. #2

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    0 Not allowed!
    First of all, the good bacteria lives in the filter media and other surfaces in the tank, not in the water itself.

    With that said, I'm not sure anybody's exactly sure how long good bacteria lives without a food source but the estimates are usually somewhere from 24 hours to a few days.

    Between those two factors you can be quite certain that no good bacteria is left, and there would have been no point in saving the water.
    300 gallon mega tank: sailfin pleco, clown loaches, silver dollars, roseline sharks, congo tetras, new world cichlids
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  3. #3

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    0 Not allowed!
    The bacteria we want for a cycled tank does not live in the water. It lives on hard surfaces with the majority on/in the filter media. How long it will live without an ammonia source is an open debate, in other words, we really don't know. I have read and been told by respectable fish keepers that the bacteria will last much longer than most people think, and I agree, but just how long... who knows. If the filter media for this tank has remained wet, you should have a few days with little to no problems as long as the tank is stocked slowly. A 5g isn't very stockable, so stocking slowly/lightly shouldn't be difficult.
    When I go fishing I just throw sharp rocks in the water and wait for the dead fish to float to the top... Kingfisher
    Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is you are stupid and make bad decisions.

    I think my fish is adjusting well to the four gallon, He's laying on his side attempting to go to sleep on the bottom of the gravel.
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  4. #4

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    0 Not allowed!
    A couple of fairly recent studies can throw significant light on this question. I'll start with the initial question of how long "bacteria" can survive.

    In a 2006 Belgian study [the entire paper is available free here: ] it was determined that AOB (ammonia oxidizing bacteria, Nitrosomonas sp.) can be starved of ammonia for weeks and even months. When placed in ideal conditions [admittedly, this was a specific set of conditions for the study] the AOB began to assimilate ammonia within minutes. Prior studies suggested up to 150 hours may be needed. But whatever the time frame, it is clear that the AOB do not "die" when starved of ammonia and can remain inactive for long periods. And while single cells may recover fairly quickly, an entire population sufficient to handle a stocked aquarium might require more time.

    The second issue (study) concerns the agent actually responsible for nitrification in freshwater aquaria. For years this was assumed to be bacteria, but a 2011 study suggests this is not the case. [The paper is available free here: ]. The discovery by science during the mid 2000's that archaea are distinct life forms from bacteria led to new studies, and the one referenced has suggested that once an aquarium is established, it is not AOB but AOA (ammonia oxidizing archaea) that do the nitrification of ammonia to nitrite to nitrate. The paper sets out that in new aquaria the AOB seem to dominate, but once established, AOA carry on and AOB are usually absent. This obviously has an impact on transferring "seed" material from an established aquarium. The fact that this does work regardless of AOB or AOA is not surprising, since we know that AOB do form fairly quickly. Dr. Tim Hovanec led the team of scientists that delved into this back in the 1990's. And the new discovery of AOA now answers the question as to why Dr. Tim's research in freshwater was partly surmise, since they could not detect the AOB precisely. Obviously, because it was not present, and AOA was but was then not known as distinct.

    Hope this is of some help.

    Last edited by Byron; 07-30-2013 at 04:50 PM.

  5. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    I agree with everyone's responses. I'll like to add my two cents. Though the BB does not live in water, that water is a better source of food for the BB than say RO water. If anyone was wanting to help keep their BB alive longer as they switched out a fish tank or something like that, I would keep the filter media in a bucket with the older water and then remove just the media and place in filter housing on the new tank.
    25 Gal - Tropical
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    Pictures of my 10 Gal Sump Filtration project

  6. #6


    0 Not allowed!
    I would say your bacteria in filter media will start to die off after 24 hours without a food source. How long it takes for all of it to die off can be anyone's guess as many factors can effect that.
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL=""]

  7. #7

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    0 Not allowed!
    Plus 1 to the above BB info. The old aquarium water is useless to establishing a new BB colony in a new tank. Clean dechlorinated water and some used filter media from an established tank is the key to a cycled tank provided you stock slowly so the BB can get caught up.
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  8. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Did you move the existing filter media to the new tank? No need to establish new BB if you still have the existing filter media.
    25 Gal - Tropical
    Custom made Wet/Dry/Sump Filter System, AquaClear 20 Powerhead, RenaCal Excel 300 Heater, artificial plants
    Fish - 7 Blackskirt Tetras, German Blue Ram, Bulldog Pleco, Assassin snail.
    "Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success." King Solomon.
    Pictures of my 10 Gal Sump Filtration project

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