I am starting the nitrogen cycle in Flareon's tank this week, and to encourage myself not to miss any water tests or changes, I decided to make this log where I will detail each day of the cycle process until it is completely in place. (Also, this way in case something terrible goes wrong and I need to make a post in the emergency forum, I can direct people here to see my most recent notes).
In this first post I will include the steps of the process, any reminders to myself, and quotes from other users around the site who have helped me understand how to get the cycle going.
1. Azoo Palm Filter
2. Eheim Jager 25w heater
3. Seachem Prime
4. 3 gal Tetra Cube
5. Gravel vac
6. API Freshwater Master Test Kit
Basically, your tank will cycle itself- your job is to make sure the levels of ammonia and nitrites stay in the safe range. The Beneficial Bacteria already live in the water naturally, just not in large enough numbers to be useful unless you have a filter.
I'll write it out in numbered steps, hopefully that will be somewhat useful:
1. Since you have Prime, add in two-three drops per gallon daily to keep everything safe for your fish.
2. Every other day check ammonia levels, if it rises above 0.25ppm do a 50% water change.
2.a- You can use a gravel vacuum during these changes or not, so long as you clean your gravel at least 2-3 times a month.
3. After a week, start testing for nitrites as well and do a 50% water change if either is above 0.25ppm
4. After about two-three weeks your ammonia levels should start dropping, your nitrites will probably skyrocket, and you should be getting nitrates if you test for them. You're almost there!
5. You cycle is complete when you get zero ammonia and zero nitrites a few days after your last water change, this can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks from the day you set up your filter.
6. You can stop adding the extra Prime once you reach this stage, since nitrates are only harmful in high concentrations.
Once your cycle is finished, you won't need to do as frequent water changes or testing anymore. For a 3g, twice a week ~30% changes should be more than enough. A stable cycle is just one that's been going for a few months, so if you stay on top of water changes and test every so often it'll take care of itself. In a 3g you might have problems with it since there's not a lot of water to dilute problems, so test your water every so often. You shouldn't see any ammonia or nitrites, just nitrates.
Clean off your filter pad every week or two with old tank water, and only replace it when it's absolutely falling apart. If/when you replace it, first stuff the new one inside the filter for a week or two so the BB can grow on it before getting rid of the old one.
I personally don't clean my decor at all really, but you can if you feel better about it. There will be BB living on them, so I suggest you rotate which ones you clean to avoid hurting your cycle.
Gravel needs to be cleaned a few times a month, I usually just vacuum with every water change since it's just as easy for me. If you don't have a gravel vacuum, stir up the gravel with each water change and try to catch as much floating gunk as you can.
Some people make logs of their tank's cycles and such but I don't have any specific links, you want the Journal section at the bottom of the forum. :3
I agree with 2muttz suggestion to cycle your tank. I think any tank over2g should be cycled. It provides better water quality for your fish and, less important, it makes less work for you.
You've read the cycling stickies? So you have an idea how it works. Here's my one-sentence cycling tutorial:
Change half the water whenever the ammonia or nitrite rises to 0.25ppm, or weekly, whichever comes first, using Prime @2-drops/gal of tank capacity and 1-drop/gal daily during the cycle.
Current format for daily log:
❀ Drops of Prime added
❀ Water change
❀ Ammonia after water change
❀ Nitrites after water change
❀ Additional notes
("~" before a number denotes that I can't say exactly what the test is reading, because it's somewhere in between two colors on the chart.)