I have a betta set up in an uncycled tank right now, but I would like to get him into a cycled environment for all of the usual reasons.
The "traditional" fishless startup process involves setting up the cycle in a complete aquarium and then adding your fish. I'd like to modify this scheme a little by breeding my bacteria in an entirely "industrial" environment instead of a full-blown aquarium. Bacteria, after all, don't need them. Once the cycle is complete, I'll bring the bacteria to my fish, rather than bringing my fish to the bacteria. This would be a lot cheaper and easier than setting up a completely redundant aquarium. My betta is my only fish, so I have no use for a quarantine tank or anything like that.
I don't see why this couldn't be done. Nevertheless, I'd like to bounce this off of you more experienced fish-keepers in case I'm just completely off my rocker.
My setup will be extremely simple. I'll take a 5 gallon plastic container, line it with aquarium gravel, and fill it with dechlorinated water. I've already got plenty of suitable containers for this (clean, never used to store chemicals, etc.). I'll need to buy a filter unit for my breeder tank, but this should be the only equipment investment, apart from a liquid testing kit.
As for heat, I have a somewhat novel approach that I learned from incubating homemade yogurt and rising bread. I'll set the whole affair on top of my (household) water heater and close the door. I think this will keep the ambient temp up to about 80, but if it's not quite getting there, I could supplement that with a lamp.
Establishing the cycle will follow the textbook fishless process. Once the cycle is established, I'll transplant all of the gravel and the filter unit from my breeder tank into my existing aquarium. This probably won't get 100% of the bacteria, but it should get most of it. In any case, a colony raised on 5ppm ammonium per day should be easily 10x the size needed to support a single betta in a 5 gallon tank. So even if I'm only successful in getting 10% of them into my aquarium alive and well, that should still be sufficient.
I'll need to closely monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels in my aquarium for several days after making the transplant, obviously, but if all goes according to plan, I should
see the levels dropping off almost immediately.
Has anyone done something like this before? If not, does anyone see any obvious problem(s) with this plan?