Hi so I’ve jus set up an aquarium and I’m trying to get the cycle to start. I’ve been adding fish food for the past week and been doing water tests several times but my ammonia’s still at 0ppm. How do I get it to start?
Your better off adding bottled ammonia so you have more control. Dr Tims brand is easily found online, or your local chemists or hardware store may have it, just ensure there are no surfacants or scents if going the latter route.
(It may be possible you're adding so little ammonia that the tank can deal with it.)
The problem with using fish food is that it has to decompose before there is any ammonia, and there is no way to tell how much ammonia is being made. There might be sufficient to grow enough bacteria to support a tankful of fish or there may be only enough bacteria to support a few fish. So when using food you have to stock slowly, a few fish at a time. It is important to test for ammonia and nitrite for several days after adding each batch of fish to check that both remain at zero. If either show above zero, water changes need to be done, and the next batch of fish should only be added after at least a week of daily zero test results.
In your other thread you have plants in the tank, but not enough to do a plant/silent cycle. The alternative to using ammonia (whether from fish food or a bottle) is to get a lot more plants, wait till you are sure they are actively growing and not about to die, then add fish a few at a time. As with cycling with fish food, daily tests for ammonia and nitrite should be done for several days after each batch.
Plants tank up ammonia as fertiliser and they don't turn it into nitrite or nitrate. When there are enough plants they can take up all the ammonia made by a tankful of fish. Floating plants are particularly good for this as being on the surface they can get get their other requirements easily - they are close to the lights and can get CO2 from the air. For a small tank, look at salvinia, frogbit or stems of hornwort or elodea allowed to float.