Originally Posted by myexplodingcat
I was sort of thinking that the small amount of plants suggested in the post wouldn't be enough for this. They wouldn't really be enough to need fish just to feed them, and if (as it was implied) that 1.0 ppm ammonia was a reading after a big water change, well, ammonia killing plants is something to be aware of. Correct me if I'm wrong.
With that amount of plants, though, it might be faster to cycle first (or it might not make a difference; I'm not entirely sure) with a minimal number of them before adding more--unless you had enough to actually plant the tank well and support it that way. In which case, your information would be totally right: you'd want fish, you'd stop worrying about ammonia so much, and you'd definitely want tons of plants.
If the OP isn't willing to commit to planting the tank heavily, though, that isn't really an option. For any tank relying on plants to soak up toxic substances, you need a TON of fast-growing plants in various species. That gets expensive, and sometimes just isn't doable all at once--which is okay, but it means fishless cycling is almost a necessity.
Oh, and you bring up another good point: that two 50% change thing--that sounded misleading, I didn't think about it well enough. That's equivalent to a 75% change. Sometimes you have to do it that way, if you have fish sensitive to fluctuations and you need to do the change in two parts, or if you've got tank decorations that prevent you from scooping everything you want to change out at once, or if you have physically fragile plants, or you have aggressive fish or a lot of fish that you don't want to cram into a tiny amount of water for any length of time. There are a ton of reasons for doing this. Two 50%s definitely don't equate 100% though--not what I meant to say. It was just an example of how one might perform a large water change on difficult tanks, that's all.
The thing about ammonia (and I'm not meaning to be argumentative here or anything! I swear!) is that it's not all straight ammonia, more than 75% of the Total Ammonia Nitrogen or TAN is actually NH4 which is the ammonium (the less toxic version) rather than the toxic NH3 Ammonia that we so freely talk about. This number changes depending on pH, higher pH there is more actual ammonia versus ammonium but it's not the full 1ppm that we read on our test kits unless you have a testing kit that differentiates between NH4 and NH3.
Doing more research now I've found that the benficial bacteria do indeed "eat" the toxic NH3 whereas the plants eat NH4 primarily. If you are using ACE Hardware Janitorial Strength Pure Ammonia you are using Ammonium Hydroxide which is actually NH4. Depending on your pH level, most of this is going towards your plants. pH levels of under 7.0 have a much harder time cycling successfully since the bacteria actually start to go dormant around that and lower. But it's primarily the stem plants and floating plants that eat the ammonium up, some plants prefer nitrate while others prefer ammonium.
I believe we're pretty much saying the same things but it's becoming irrelevant to the post at this point.
@bluenails, yes, if they are fast growing stem or floating plants then that bioload is just fine. It just becomes an issue as you know, when keepers start to throw fish in there without letting the plants do their thing just yet.
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