Originally Posted by hhchun
Does the cycle finish when nitrate levels are high while ammonia and nitrite is at 0ppm? Also, at the end I have read that you do a water change, but I can't find information saying how much of a water change to do.
Also, is water conditioner something you use when starting cycling?
the cycle is complete when ammonia and nitrATE are both 0ppm .. nitrITE (i've capitalized the ends to emphasis there is a difference) can be a little above 0 but not too much .. if it is very high reading of nitrITE .. then you need to do a wc .. since even though nitrITE is the good bacteria and taking care of ur nitrATE's which then take care of ur ammonia .. it can still be toxic to ur fish at very high levels ..
so it's not imperative to do a wc after the cycle completes .. if you have a safe level of nitrITE's ... then you will be able to add in ur betta at this time ^_^
usually for water changes after an established cycle is 20-25% a week .. and 50% a month (as needed)
but i will recommend to test your water before doing so .. and then testing again after the w/c .. till u get a feel for how your tank is reacting and stabilizing to w/c's .. then you can determine when to do w/c's after testing and knowing about how long it will take for levels to increase in ur tank to need a w/c .. too many un-needed w/c in a short amount of time could cause you to take out too much good bacteria's and not allow them to re-establish in ur tank fast enough .. which is why you might notice when u get a bacteria bloom (the fuzzy looking white stuff) .. and your tank will fall back into the the 1st or 2nd stage of cycling (a re-cycle) ..
always always always always always add water conditioner to any water you will use with fish .. i even add water conditioner to the bucket of water i use to wash/rinse my fish decorations ..
as to using water conditioner to start a cycle (if i interpreting ur question correctly) .. water conditioner will not start a cycle .. you will need a source of ammonia to jump start the cycling process ..
i have heard that using the chemicals you buy in the store is not a good way to start a fishless cycle .. and from my experience i haven't been able to get a fishless cycle to start >.< .. i always used in fish cycling
some methods i have used since the cycling process is very rough for a betta
1. get a feeder fish (cost 10-13 cents) and let it swim around in ur tank for a while till it produces enough ammonia for the cycle to begin ..
my 2 feeder fish that i got to start my cycle made it through the cycle process and are now have grown and is living healthy and happily .. so only use this method if you have a home for the little guy .. or are able to return fish friends back to the store or have LFS's willing to take in fishies .. or since it is a feeder fish you can find someone that has a pet that would like some food .. but that's sad @_@
2. drop food in the tank and let it soak and sink and dissolve and then repeat this a few days so that ammonia can come from the uneaten food .. this is a slower method to starting .. but it does work
3. or you can use ur betta to start producing ammonia in the tank .. it will be very stressful for him .. when the cycle starts .. he will swim around like he's drunk and hide and have clamp fins (which is why using feeder fish is my most recommended method) .. even though bettas are heartly(hardly?) fish this will still be hard on him .. and will need extra tlc during the whole process
=D good luck !! and keep us posted on ur progress