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Change half the water when either ammonia or nitrite approach 0.50ppm, or weekly, whichever comes first. Add Prime at 2-drops per gallon of tank size every day until cycled.

That’s all you have to do. You can stop reading now. But there’s a lot of information packed into those sentences. So let’s go over it again –- slowly.

Change half the water...

Removing water is most easily done with a siphon, also known as a gravel vacuum. Although a clean, new turkey baster will also work. Suck up as much old food, plant debris and feces as you can conveniently. Replace with water of the same temperature (within a few degrees either way). Add Prime to the tank just before refilling. You don’t have to “age” the water except in special conditions. See pH matching – below.

when either ammonia or nitrite approach 0.50ppm...

You need a water test kit to get these readings. Liquid tests are considered more consistently accurate than test strips, and they are cheaper per test. Most fish-keepers use the API master test kit ( [ame="http://www.amazon.com/API-Freshwater-Master-Test-Kit/dp/B000255NCI/"]
[/ame] Amazon.com: API Freshwater Master Test Kit: Pet Supplies)
which contains the tests you need. Test every day until you learn how fast ammonia builds up in your tank. (ppm is parts per million.)

You also need a filter to cycle a tank. Cycling bacteria need oxygen and water flow. A filter is the best and easiest way to provide both. Do not rinse or replace the filter during the cycle.

Some keepers prefer to change 25% of the water when ammonia approaches 0.25ppm. A 25% water change is more appropriate for tanks larger than 8-gallons.

or weekly, whichever comes first.

A weekly 50% water change with vacuuming is part of recommended tank maintenance. If ammonia and nitrite stay below 0.50ppm the tank goes onto the weekly water-change schedule.

Add Prime at 2-drops per gallon of tank size every day...

This is IMPORTANT: Prime water conditioner (by Seachem) detoxifies ammonia and nitrite in the tank so it will not endanger your fish. This protection goes away within 48 hours, so it is necessary to add more Prime. Seachem recommends 2-drops/gal of tank size with water changes. A further dose of 2-drops/gal every day keeps the protection fresh.

Other water conditioners that detoxify ammonia include API AmmoLock and Kordon Amquel+. Water conditioners must clearly state they detoxify or otherwise deal with ammonia. If you're not sure, check with us before you buy.

until cycled.

The tank is cycled when ammonia reads 0.0ppm, nitrite reads 0.0ppm and nitrate increases slightly between water changes. Afterwards, you only have to add Prime during weekly water changes.

Maintenance

A weekly 50% water change is a good habit to get into. While you’re at it, vacuum the substrate to remove solid waste, rotting food, etc. A weekly partial water change also dilutes nitrate, removes dissolved waste and replaces minerals used up by your fish and plants. Every few weeks, rinse the filter media in the water removed from the tank during the water change -- not in untreated tapwater.

Why cycle?

Fish and other aquatic animals produce ammonia as a by-product of living. Rotting food, plant debris, feces and other organics also produce ammonia. Ammonia is harmful or deadly if allowed to build-up in the tank. Cycling bacteria remove ammonia, providing the healthiest, safest water conditions for your fish. Creating a 'nitrogen cycle' in the tank is how you build bacteria colonies big enough to 'eat' all the ammonia.

The nitrogen cycle can take anywhere from two weeks to two months to complete.

Fish-in? Fishless?


The above instructions are for a “fish-in” cycle which uses the ammonia produced by your fish to feed the cycling bacteria and to grow the bacteria colonies. Since Betta produce so little ammonia (low-bioload), smaller colonies are enough. You need only enough bacteria to eat all the ammonia. In fact, that’s what get with fish-in cycling – just the right amount of bacteria.

“Fishless” cycling means that you provide the ammonia to feed the growing colonies. You can raise very large bacteria colonies using this method. If you’re planning to stock large fish or many fish at once this may be the way to go.

Tank size

Any size tank from 2-gallons on up can be cycled using this method. The smaller 2- and 3- gallon tanks do require extra care and close monitoring, as ammonia can build up pretty fast, sometimes. Test every day, and always be ready to do a 50% water change with Prime if ammonia rises above 0.50ppm.

Bacteria

Two types of bacteria are involved in the “nitrogen cycle.” One kind (Nitrosomonas) oxidizes harmful ammonia and turns it into nitrite. The other (Nitrospira) oxidizes nitrite and turns it into nitrate. After a tank is cycled the weekly water change removes nitrate.

Filter media (sponges, cartridges, pads) and substrate that contain live cycling bacteria can also be used to “seed” the cycle and make it faster. These bacteria quickly grow throughout the tank if you place them in the filter or in the filter flow. Bacteria stick to surfaces; not much lives in the water, so using old tank-water does nothing for the cycle. Be careful to use only seeded media from a clean, healthy tank.

Cycling bacteria is available in bottles from your local pet store. Tetra SafeStart is often used, although there are a few other products containing the bacteria listed above.

pH matching


Betta can tolerate a wide range of pH – from below 7.0 pH to above 8.0 pH – as long as it does not change quickly. If your tapwater pH matches your tank pH within + 0.3 points a 50% water change is no problem. If the pH difference is outside of that range, letting the refill water sit and "age" for 24-hours should bring it into range. Or you can do smaller water changes more often.

This sticky...

...is an open sticky. Questions and comments are encouraged. In order to keep the thread from expanding beyond convenient reading length, some comments, questions and answers may be folded into the body of the sticky and the original post might be deleted. This is for efficiency only and not a reflection on the poster. I'm sure you'll understand.


 
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Here's something I've wondered about...do products like Tetra Safestart, Cycle, and Colony actually speed up cycling as considerably as they're advertised to? I've used Colony and Prime in my 5 gal and never had an ammonia problem yet...but my betta might just not produce a lot of waste.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Not all of those "cycle helper" products are the same. Only a few contain the actual cycling bacteria (Nitrosomonas ans Nitrospira) that directly cause the nitrogen cycle. These include Tetra Safestart, Dr Tim's One-and-Only, MicrobeLift NiteOut, ATM Colony and very few others.

Most of the rest products contain bacteria that consume organics reduce sludge and help with the biofilm where the bacteria live. They do not cycle the tank/filter and can, in fact inhibit the the nitrogen cycle. Nutrafin Cycle is one of these. So is Stress-zyme and most others.

A product that contains the right bacteria will brag about it by name. It isn't cheap or easy to manufacture. They should be proud of it --and charge accordingly.
 

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The above instructions are for a “fish-in” cycle which uses the ammonia produced by your fish to feed the cycling bacteria and to grow the bacteria colonies. Since Betta produce so little ammonia (low-bioload), smaller colonies are enough. You need only enough bacteria to eat all the ammonia. In fact, that’s what get with fish-in cycling – just the right amount of bacteria.

“Fishless” cycling means that you provide the ammonia to feed the growing colonies. You can raise very large bacteria colonies using this method. If you’re planning to stock large fish or many fish at once this may be the way to go.
Question: say you bought a fish tank and put one betta in to do a fish-in cycle. You cycle the tank, ammonia and nitrites read 0ppm, everything's good. What if you went and added more fish to the tank? Would you essentially be starting a fish-in cycle over again because there wouldn't be enough bacteria? If you were adding fish sensitive to water parameters would you have to remove your betta and do a fishless cycle??
 

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Discussion Starter #6
That's right. Adding more livestock increases the bioload which then needs more bacteria to oxidize the increased ammonia. The slight ammonia spike that sometimes happens is called a "mini-cycle." Adding Prime @ 2-drops/gal daily keeps the ammonia safely locked until the bacteria colonies grow to balance the new bioload.

Alternatively, you can fishless cycle a filter in a separate container, then install it in the display tank, which would then be effectively cycled. This is called a "bucket cycle."
 

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:thankyou: For this tutorial!

I have had 100% success using Seachem Stability to cycle my last seven tanks in 10-14 days. Another advantage? It aids in "feeding" established bacteria when you add new fish. Since I order online-only, I sometimes add 15-20 fish at one time. Have never had a cycle crash or "mini-cycle."
 

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I'm doing a fishless cycle for my planted 10 gallon tank by adding ammonia. I've gotten to the part where 4ppm of ammonia will disappear in 24 hours, but my nitrites are still staying a steady 5ppm. I'm not exactly sure how long I've been cycling my tank (I think this might be the second week), but the ammonia has disappeared in 24 hours for the last 3 days. How long before I start to see a drop in the nitrites?

I haven't done a water change since there are no fish that could be harmed. It's my first time cycling a tank so I just want to be sure I'm on the right track.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Unless you're planning on highly-stocking that 10g, you can cut the ammonia back to 2.0ppm now and let the nitrite-oxidizing bacteria catch up. (Be sure to use dechlorinator for this small water change.) This should take just a few days and your nitrate should start to rise. NOB are kind of finicky; they can be overloaded.

Anyway, you're almost cycled.
 

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Hey! Thanks for this.

So I bought Prime by Seachem, and used it once with my fish still in. The next morning, the tank was a cloudy orange colour. I did a water change and it went back to normal.

So I bought a new tank, and wanted to try it again. I got everything set up, but again, the day after, its now a cloudy orange colour.

Has any one else had this issue? I did a water change to my fish tank as well and the only thing different is the drops of Prime, and the other one looks clear / amber (from the Indian Almond Leaf).
 

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This is a new one for me. I've never heard of a reaction to Prime, and I've never heard of it going stale. It may have something to do with your waterI'm going to contact Seachem to see what they have to say.

What is your water source? If municipal, what is the URL for their website?
 

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Subbing because I'm interested in the cycling and also shoutout to fellow Sin Johnsian! I moved only 7 months ago but I miss SJ :)

What do you recommend for an ammonia source? I have been adding BB to my tank thinking I did that in place of adding ammonia. I don't have fish in my tank yet. Also, I am getting all positive results back on my water testing. Nitrates are under 50 ppm and ammonia and nitrites are 0 ppm. I'm doing a water change today so I wanted to know if I should add ammonia. Can I get ammonia from the grocery store?
 

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We are possibly thinking of getting another 5.5 gal tank for a potential new betta. We already have a 5.5. Could we take the filter out of that one and put it in the new tank and get an instant cycle? Would that hurt the cycle of the first tank?( it's a top fin brand-- has carbon filter and sponge)? Should we also use some of the water from the first tank in the new one?
 

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If you remove the filter from your existing tank then you will be taking away most of the bacteria from that tank, and will crash your cycle. What you can do is take a small piece of filter sponge out of that filter, and put in the new filter to seed it, or alternatively run the new filter alongside the old filter in your existing tank for a little while. Both of these methods will kick start the bacteria in the new filter, and make cycling much quicker.
 

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If you remove the filter from your existing tank then you will be taking away most of the bacteria from that tank, and will crash your cycle. What you can do is take a small piece of filter sponge out of that filter, and put in the new filter to seed it, or alternatively run the new filter alongside the old filter in your existing tank for a little while. Both of these methods will kick start the bacteria in the new filter, and make cycling much quicker.
Are you saying that every time I change the filter on my tank, I am likely to crash my cycle?
 

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If you change all the filter media at once, then yes, or at least that's my understanding of how it works. To be honest I'm not sure how this would work with a sponge filter, in my old community tank I had a HOB filter, and I just used to change half the media at a time, to make sure the bacteria wasn't too badly affected.
 

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Hi Laki. Good to see you.

What sort of BB are you adding? Just adding bacteria won't get it. You have to feed the bacteria with ammonia in order for them to grow to a healthy colony. You can use the fish to provide the ammonia (fish-in cycling) or add ammonia yourself (fishless cycling).

Pure ammonia is not available at just any grocery store. It must be "Pure" ammonia with no detergents or other additives.Tru-Value Hardware has Janitorial Strength ammonium hydroxide (ammonia). Shake the bottle. If it foams, it has additives and you don't want it.

I’m interested in what you're adding because you show nitrate, which indicates a cycled tank. How long have you been dosing with BB and what kind is it exactly? I though by now that you would have a cycled tank that you could get seeded media from. If that's what you're using, I'd recommend getting a fish in there to keep the cycle going.

If you're not going to stock that tank soon, then you can cheat and just put a few pellets in there every day to generate a little ammonia, rather than buying a whole bottle. Be sure to clean them out every once in a while.

And, by all means, keep testing.
 
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