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Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2012

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    Default Cycling with Tetras - Need advice before it's too late

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    I've just set up a 20 gal tank as a new aquarium owner. I did quite a bit of research before buying everything and had planned on a fishless cycle. I was struggling to find ammonia though and as I don't live in a city, on my shopping trip there the aquarium store convinced me to cycle with neon tetras. So I bought 5. I added them to the tank about 3 days after I set up the tank and started the filter (with the bacterial starter). Again I was told this would be fine.

    That was just about a week and a half ago. They have seemed quite happy until today. Yesterday the ammonia level was up to 0.25 and today it's looking closer to 0.5. My nitrate/nitrite levels are 0 and my pH is between 6.8 and 7.2. Tonight, one of the tetras has taken to hiding under the bogwood.

    Looking online and I'm now realizing that neon tetras probably weren't the best to start with, so why the aquarium staff recommended them I don't know but that's beside the point.

    I'm wondering what's the best thing to do to give them a good chance? I did a 15% water change yesterday. The water was looking a bit yellow/murky but seems to have cleared a bit since the water change.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated...more water changes, ammonia detoxifier, stress coat etc? I've done a search on this part of the forum but not really seen anything directly relevant.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2

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    Sep 2010

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    0 Not allowed!
    I agree that neons were not the best choice to cycle with but since that ship has sailed [Unless you can return them].. Read this sticky on cycling with fish.

    Do a 50% WC [water change] in the meantime to get your ammonia levels down to where they need to be while in a cycle with fish.
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    Having said that, Just because it's a stupid question doesn't mean that it shouldn't be asked. It's better to know.

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  3. #3

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    May 2012

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    0 Not allowed!
    I've had no luck cycling with neons. Of all my fish (4 cories, 6 Red Eye Tetras, & 3 Angelfish) the neons were the only ones I've lost. I had a school of 7 and they dropped 1 each day during the ammonia part of my cycle. I have 2 that survived and they seemed to quit dying off after the ammonia dropped. I would return the neons if you can.
    27 gallon Marineland cube freshwater:
    4 Cory Catfish
    10 Red Eye Tetras
    4 neon tetras
    1 Balloon Ram
    1 Bolivian Ram

    15 gallon brackish:
    1 Figure 8 Puffer

  4. #4


    0 Not allowed!
    First I want to point out that the water was a little yellow because of your driftwood. Those are the tannins leaking out. If you want that to go away you should take out the piece and boil it several times, replacing the water each time, until the water stops turning yellow. It's not a harmful effect though, and if you don't mind the tank water looking a bit like tea there's not a huge reason to do that. It will go away on its own too, but it may take a very long time.

    Next, yeah neon tetras aren't the greatest option for cycling. They don't tend to be super hardy. Keep the ammonia level below .25 and you're doing all you can.

    My main suggestion would be if you have a friend with an established tank / know anyone with an established tank, I would strongly suggest wringing their filter into a ziplock bag. All the brown stuff off their filter is the bacteria that you are trying to get with this cycle. Adding that to your tank should significantly speed up the cycling process.

  5. #5

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    Sep 2006
    Cadillac, MI

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    0 Not allowed!
    You need to change more than 15% of the water with ammonia levels of .50. But I'm surprised that you even got ammonia levels of .50 with only 5 neons in 20 gallons of water.

  6. #6

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    Dec 2010

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    0 Not allowed!
    Agreed - while your tank is cycling, you should change 50% of the water at a time in order to keep your ammonia down to .25. Hope you have a testing kit! It's important to have your own so you can monitor your water parameters during cycling. If you bring your water to the place where you purchased the fish, they will probably use a test strip and tell you your water is "fine" when it might not be - Petsmart employees have told me that up to 1.0ppm of ammonia is fine when it truly isn't.

  7. #7

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    May 2012

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    0 Not allowed!
    I cycled my tank with leapard danios. They are hardy little fish! I havent owned any tetras yet so i dont know about those, but with my danios i started out with 3 in a 43 gallon tank and worked them up to 9 and finished my cycle off with 9. I changed 50% of my water once a week and maybe even 75% once or twice to keep the ammonia within range. I never lost a single danio the entire cycle. Cycling with fish can be stressful on you at times and can take a while, but just keep the water levels in check and im sure you will do fine. Dont lose hope and if you find that cycling with the tetras doesnt work out for you, you can always try fishless or switch to danios, most people dont like them but i think they are awesome! I wish the best of luck to you!

  8. #8

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    Jun 2012

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    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks everyone for your quick replies, I'm very grateful.

    This morning I half expected to see a dead little fishy, but they were all there and none were hiding. They did all feed too which I was relieved at. I'll try a 50% water change when I get back from work tonight so hopefully until they'll be fine.

    I take it then it will be a slow and steady cycling, by keeping the ammonia to around 0.25 or so? I've been testing with an API master kit (so drops not strips). If it takes longer to cycle then I'm okay with that if it's less stressful on the fish. I don't know anyone I can swap out some filter foam with, so that's not an option.

    As for the tannins causing the colour, that was my first thought as it did appear after I put the wood in. But I'd had the wood in a bucket of water for a week with no staining, which surprised me. It seems to have cleared since I did a water change, so for now I'll leave it as it is.

    Thanks again

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