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Old 09-24-2012, 07:27 PM   #1 
NorthernLights
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Cycling a 3 gallon tank

I have searched and searched, and I cannot seem to find anything that addresses this particular situation. Please forgive me if I'm asking something that is answered elsewhere. The setup I am planning is to have is a 3 gallon with airstone-driven UGF and artificial plants, with one betta.

First off, can you/should you cycle a tank that does not have live plants? My understanding of the nitrogen cycle is that plants convert the final products from the BB, so without live plants the cycle cannot complete, right?

Secondly, if you are doing water changes for this size and setup (which I understand to be something on the order of 50% twice a week and 75-100% weekly), will that prevent a real cycle from forming anyway, or not?

Is it worth trying to cultivate bacteria on the gravel with something like Jungle Start-Zyme?

Thank you!
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Old 09-24-2012, 07:31 PM   #2 
LizzyP
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I just cycled my 3 gallon with no live plants.

Never dump out your tank 100% while cycling. You'll lose all the BB, 2 50% changes per week is fine.

Some people have had success with those additives, some have not. I personally have never used them so I'm not help there.
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Old 09-24-2012, 07:40 PM   #3 
LebronTheBetta
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I have successfully cycled my 3.5 gallon and I'm pretty sure you can do this as well. I will answer your questions based on my experience. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me. :) But I have a question, what is a UGF Filter?

You can definitely cycle without live plants, however, it's recommended highly. I cycled mine without plants and it still did. In my experience, it's better to add the plants on the 2nd week as in the 1st week, the plants might as well still all the ammonia from the water away from the filter. No Ammonia= No BB. The filter is the main source for ammonia reduction but the plants will certainly help. The plants will get the nitrates which the filter can not eat up so that is a plus...

Once the tank has cycled, you can do 1 75% change or 2 50% changes per week to get rid of the nitrates. The filter will not get rid of nitrates, only plants and you will. But during the cycling process, you must do 2 50% changes per week whether plants or no plants. This will keep ammonia to minimum and as OFL said, follow your instincts. (;

Those bacteria supplements will not help you at all, but I think I heard somewhere that a specific brand did, I think from a mod here called Olympia? I used those supplements before, mine was called "Top Fin Bacteria Supplement". Mine didn't really help at all. It's best to keep the chemicals you add to the water minimum as the fish will feel weird. It's better to just add water conditioner and that's it unless you're medicating.

Good Luck, Northern Lights.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:37 AM   #4 
NorthernLights
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abbreviations

UGF==Undergravel Filter.

I would like to eventually move toward live planted tanks. However, since this will be the first fish that is mine full time, I have no experience with planted tanks and it just seems like something that will cause more problems than it solves.

How does the lack of live plants change how a cycle would occur and how long would a cycle take?
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:04 AM   #5 
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In a 3gal filtered tank regardless of cycle/cycling stage-without live plants-I recommend twice weekly water changes of 50%...1-50% water only and 1-50% to include the substrate by vacuum or stir and dip method, however, since you have an UGF-it is important that you vacuum the plates at least weekly so that function properly. Also, with an UGF you don't want to add rooted plants since they can impede on the proper function of the UGF-You could have ferns, moss, anubias since you tie them off to things.

In smaller tanks you can establish the nitrogen cycle, however, due to the limited surface area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize the cycle might not be stable and the tank will still need twice weekly water changes to err on the side of caution.....

The nitrogen cycle can be established without plants-with plants you have what is called the silent cycle-but this also depends on the number, species and growth state of the plants...A few plants you cycle just like you do without plants.....
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Old 09-26-2012, 06:57 AM   #6 
Hallyx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldfishlady View Post
In smaller tanks you can establish the nitrogen cycle, however, due to the limited surface area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize the cycle might not be stable and the tank will still need twice weekly water changes to err on the side of caution.....
This is true. But by using a filter with lots of foam to keep sufficient bacteria, you can achieve a stable cycle. Unfortunately, a UGF does not meet this requirement. Many of us who have cycled smaller tanks use what's called a sponge filter which uses an air-pump to circulate the water through a largish block of filter foam. This provides enough surface area for the nitrifying bacteria.
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Old 09-26-2012, 02:48 PM   #7 
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Very true Hallyx, you can add more artificial items to increase the surface area in smaller tanks for a stable nitrogen cycle. More foam/sponge, ceramic beads, bio balls..etc.....all can help provide more surface area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize. Also, more decorations, large stones and different size gravel can provide more surface area. Allowing areas within the tank itself to colonize the BB-like the non-viewing walls, intake of the filter and decorations can help.

Beneficial bacteria are sticky and adhere to all surface areas within the tank, in the top layer of substrate and the filter/filter media-very little are in the water column itself-The BB are self limiting and you can only colonize numbers based on surface area, oxygen and food source. Any one limiting factor can cause mini-cycle or unstable cycle-as well as over cleaning or under cleaning-Remove too much or not enough mulm/debris and the BB can suffocate or starve. Balance.....
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:03 AM   #8 
Hallyx
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Juat as an experiment, I cycled a 5g no substrate, with just the small foam block in my preferred Hagen Mimi-elite filter, three Anubias a sword thing and a mossball.

That tank eats ~2.0ppm of ammonia every two days and stays below 30ppm nitrates. So I'm aware of the minimum necessary for a stable cycle. It really doesn't take much, it seems.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:57 PM   #9 
NorthernLights
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head hurts!

I am SOOOO confused...

So I've read and re-read the stickies about nitrogen cycles, and now it sounds like you DO NOT need to cycle a tank in advance if you are going to have only one fish in it?

Does that mean you can set up a new tank, add dechlorinated water, let the heater bring it to temp, and just add the fish? No waiting 24, 48, 72 or whatever hours, or a week?
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:08 PM   #10 
LebronTheBetta
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The point in cycling is to have no ammonia or nitrite in the tank which can harm your fish. In any amount, they WILL harm your fish. If you don't cycle your tank, ammonia will be in it most of the time. Any traces of ammonia or nitrite already damage their slime coat and organs. Cycling is REALLY important.

I usually wait 24 hours to just see if everything is working or not, there's no reason to wait in general, though.
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