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45 gallon fishless cycling

Discussion in 'Cycle your Tank' started by steelo, Nov 30, 2018.

  1. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    Hey everyone, I’m certainly not new to fish but a recently purchased a 45 gallon aquarium 2 weeks ago. In the past, I’ve had a 20 gallon (my dad mainly took care of it) a 10 gallon and a couple 1-2 gallon. I will admit, I have not had the best of luck with fish…in the past, I’ve been very impatient and resorted to chemicals solving all problems. I now vow to be more patient and want to set up this new aquarium the right way by doing a fishless cycle. As far as equipment, right now it is minimal – a 250w heater which seems to be keeping the water at a steady 78 degrees and a power filter. I do not have any plants or ornaments installed yet, other than gravel.


    Now, the aquarium has been set up for almost 2 weeks now and the water is a milky white color. I made sure to dechlorinate the water before adding and I’m adding a tiny pinch of fish food every couple of days to feed the bacteria. Based on my readings, this is a very good thing. However, I’d like to know how far in the nitrogen cycle I am as I’m anxious to start slowly adding fish. I do not have a water test kit, but I plan on taking in a vial of aquarium water to have the pet store test. I’ve read contradicting reports that cloudy water signifies the beginning of the cycle and I’ve also read that it means it’s pretty far along. I’m curious, in your experience, does this mean I’m at the beginning or near the end of the nitrogen cycle? Thanks everyone!

     
  2. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

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    Hi and welcome to the forum :)

    Cloudy milky coloured water is caused by bacteria feeding on rotting food in the tank. The quickest way to fix this is by doing a huge water change. However, you are cycling the tank and you should not add any more food or do a water change until you get the ammonia and nitrite levels tested.

    Take a glass full of tank water to the local pet shop and get them to test the ammonia, nitrite, pH and general hardness (GH) of the water. Write the results down in numbers. If the pet shop says "the water is fine", ask them what the results are in numbers. With the GH, ask them if the results are in ppm or dGH, they have different results.

    If you want to buy test kits, get ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. Check the expiry date and do not buy any test kit kept in a warm room like a fish room, and avoid kits kept in front of a window or near a heat source. Heat destroys the chemicals and the test kits go off sooner. The same applies to medications if you ever need to treat fish.

    General hardness (GH) only needs to be checked a few times per year, so most people either check their water supply company's website or contact them by telephone to find out what it is. Or they get their local pet shop to test the GH for them. If you want to buy a GH test kit, that is fine too but you don't use it that much.

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    The filtration cycle takes about 4-5 weeks. During the first couple of weeks (when there is ammonia in the water from fish food or fish waste) you get colonies of beneficial bacteria they develop and grow in the water. These bacteria take time to build up in numbers and gradually eat the ammonia and convert it into nitrite.

    After a couple of weeks there is usually enough bacteria to eat all the ammonia and the ammonia level in the water suddenly drops to 0 and the nitrite starts to go up. After a couple more weeks you get more types of bacteria living in the aquarium and filter and these eat nitrite and convert it into nitrate. The bacteria build up in numbers and one day the nitrite will drop to 0. When this happens the nitrate will start to go up.

    Once the ammonia and nitrite levels have gone up and come back down to 0, and the nitrate levels start to go up, the filter and tank are considered cycled and you can add fish.

    A couple of points to note, if the ammonia levels get too high (above 4ppm) during the cycling process, the bacteria will stop converting it into nitrite and the cycle will stall. So you need to monitor the ammonia levels and try to keep them around 3ppm during cycling. If the level is above 4ppm, do a 75% water change using dechlorinated water.

    If the pH is too low (below 6.0) it can slow or stop the cycling process. So you want to keep the pH around 7.0-7.4 if possible. If the pH is too low, do a 75% water change to bring the level up.

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    To monitor the nitrite cycle you check the ammonia and nitrite levels regularly, (every 1 or 2 days). You should see the ammonia level gradually go up over a couple of weeks, before coming back down to 0. When the ammonia comes down you will notice the nitrite levels start to go up, and after a couple of weeks that will come down. When that has come down you start monitoring the nitrate levels and they will slowly go up.

    You don't bother testing for nitrate until the tank has cycled because nitrate test kits will read nitrite as nitrate and give you a false nitrate reading.

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    When you are at the pet shop, make a list of the fish & plants you like and post that on here. Post the water test results too, and post your tank dimensions (length x width x height). You can look at different lights and substrates and put them on here for more info.

    We can go through the list of fish you like and suggest combinations that are suitable for the tank size and water chemistry.

    Do not get any fish until the tank has finished cycling. That will probably be in a couple of weeks.

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    If you get bored in the mean time, you can check out the following link. It is about what to do if your fish gets sick. It is pretty long and boring but worth reading when you have some spare time.
    http://www.fishforums.net/threads/what-to-do-if-your-fish-gets-sick.450268/
     
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  3. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    Thanks! I replied to your other post, but to reiterate - I tested the water last night and the readings were: ph: around 8, ammonia: 4 ppm, nitrites: 0-0.25. For now, I think the best thing to do is not do anything but monitor the levels every 1-2 days. I forgot to mention that I added Top Fin bacteria supplement aquarium cycling water conditioner. What I failed to do is read the label...it reads that it makes aquariums safe to introduce fish immediately by limiting ammonia and nitrites. I really hope this isn't preventing nitrites from building up...
     
  4. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

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    The way the Top Fin bacterial supplement (and other bacterial supplements) works is they introduce live but dormant bacteria to the tank that wake up and start to grow when added to the aquarium water. They usually have several types of beneficial bacteria in them. One type of bacteria eats ammonia and converts it into nitrite, and the other type eats nitrite and converts it into nitrate.

    The bacteria will not inhibit the filter cycle and are the same bacteria that would naturally occur if you left the tank without adding bacterial supplements. You are simply inoculating the tank with the filter bacteria that help to speed the cycling process up.
     
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  5. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    Thanks Colin_T! It's only been cycling for a week and a half, so it's probably right where it should be
     
  6. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    As far as adding fish once it's cycled, I plan on starting with some zebra danios, guaramis, tiger barbs, swordtails and eventually a school of neon tetras (they aren't the hardiest fish, but they are my favorite group fish) I will add them a few at a time before introducing different fish. These are the fish my dad once had in his 20 gallon tank and remarkably, for the most part they all got along. The tiger barbs got a little nippy with the guarami's and neon tetras, and I think there were a few casualties but most lasted for several years.

    I'm thinking about eventually adding live plants, although I only added plain colored gravel. That will probably be a while down the road once the gravel has enough nutrients and I know the tank is stable.
     
    #6 steelo, Dec 4, 2018 at 9:49 AM
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018 at 10:03 AM
  7. essjay

    essjay Member

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    You need to find out how hard your water is before getting any fish. For example, neons need soft water while swordtails need hard water. Your water supplier may give your hardness on their website - make a note of the number and the unit as there are several units they could use (a common unit used in the UK is mg/l calcium which will need to be converted into the two units used in fishkeeping, for example). If they don't give it, you could ring them, or take a sample of tap water to a fish shop and ask them to test the hardness (GH)

    I would seriously think twice about keeping tiger barbs with gouramis. They could do serious damage to any long finned tank mates - and their swimming habit will stress slow sedate fish like gouramis. Your father had problems keeping tiger barbs and gouramis.......
     
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  8. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    I understand that tiger barbs and gouramis seem like the perfect bad combination, but he had both together in a small 20 gallon aquarium. Somehow, they both survived for several years which on paper doesn't make sense...he must have had good luck, I suppose. You do bring up a very valid point and I will probably forfeit introducing gouramis.

    From what I've read so far, the water here in Lexington, Kentucky is very hard which I'm guessing is because of the vast amounts of limestone found in this area. If you hold a glass of tap water, you can sometimes see sediment. If neons favor soft water, this may a death sentence...I'm wondering how effective a faucet water filter would be.
     
    #8 steelo, Dec 4, 2018 at 10:47 AM
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018 at 11:25 AM
  9. Byron

    Byron Member

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    I'll comment on a couple of issues mentioned in this thread, starting with the substrate. You mention plants later though you have "plain coloured gravel." Plants will grow in almost any substrate, though sand does work best overall. But you also want to consider possible future fish...if for example you might have substrate fish like cories or loaches, sand would be the better substrate. It is easier to change the substrate now than after fish are in. And coloured gravels will detract from the fish colours. A neutral and darkish substrate is better for fish; I cannot tell if you meant this neutral colour, by "plain coloured" so just mentioning it in case..

    As for gourami and tiger barbs, this is never advisable. The fact that it "worked" in a 20 gallon is more likely due to the stress this put on the fish, inhibiting their natural behaviours and temperament. Tiger Barbs for example should be in a group of no less than 10-12, and this in a 30 gallon tank. This is minimum. Having fewer in a 20g is going to stress them. I don't know the gourami species, but that is another factor. And while physical attacks may not have been observed, the pheromones and allomones that fish release and which are read by other fish can cause stress on their own. There is no point in going against nature, it does not work even if it might appear to on the surface. And "surviving for years" is not at all the same as "thriving for a normal lifespan."

    On the water hardness, tap filters will not deal with this, at least I am not aware of any that do. The only way to safely and effectively lower the GH/KH of hard water is by diluting the water with "pure" water such as distilled, Reverse Osmosis, or sometimes rainwater. Keep in mind though that once you go down this road, the water for every partial water change will have to be prepared in advance. Certainly possible, but can get involved. It is better to select fish suited to the source water.
     
    #9 Byron, Dec 4, 2018 at 11:40 AM
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018 at 12:06 PM
  10. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

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    Regarding gouramis, dwarf gouramis (Trichogaster lalius) carry 2 nasty diseases (TB and the Iridovirus) that can infect any fish and neither can be treated. It is best to avoid these fish and their colour forms until the Asian fish farms get their act together.
     
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  11. essjay

    essjay Member

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    I don't know what type of faucet filters are used in the USA but I know of a few types. The most common are those that swap 'hard' minerals for hydrogen ions, which results in a significantly lower pH; and the type that swaps the 'hard' minerals for sodium, which isn't good for fish as they have not evolved to cope with high levels of sodium in the water.
    As Byron said, the only safe way to 'soften' water is by using RO water or similar.
     
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  12. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    So after reading this, gouramis sound like a very bad choice. Do you believe neons and tiger barbs could survive peacefully together. I know neons are a pretty delicate fish and tiger barbs are fairly aggressive.
     
  13. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

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    You can make pure water with a solar still. You have a container of water outside in the sun. In this container is a bucket to collect the pure water. You put the lid on the container and let the water vapour condense on the inside of the lid. It runs along the lid and drips into the bucket. It is pure water with no minerals and a pH of 7.0. You can use this distilled water to dilute hard water.

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    I don't like keeping neon tetras with tiger barbs but you can keep neons with Ruby Barbs (Puntius nigrofasciata), which look similar to tiger barbs but the male ruby barb changes colour during the breeding season.
     
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  14. Byron

    Byron Member

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    I would not. Neon tetra are fairly sedate fish, meaning they are not active swimmers. Many of the tetras, like the rasboras, are quiet fish. Active swimmers like most of the barbs and danios are generally not good tank mates for quieter fish. Observations in the natural habitats bear this out. And before someone mentions it, I realize tetras are South American and barbs/danios are Asian so not in the same habitat--but what I am getting at is the activity of fish in those respective habitats. Quieter fish teend to remain in shallower dimly-lit waters, away from more active species.
     
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  15. steelo

    steelo New Member

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    Okay, how about zebra danios or whitecloud danios with neons? I've never noticed these types of danios being very aggressive. Could you suggest any good tank mates for neons?
     
    #15 steelo, Dec 4, 2018 at 12:58 PM
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018 at 1:03 PM

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