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Aquarium Cycle Issues

BF McUmber

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I had very little issues cycling my aquarium at work but my home aquarium Is going nowhere. 

I have two tanks going at home a 10 gallon quarantine tank and a 40 breeder both on my tap water. 

The KH in both tanks is 10 degrees and the GH is 17 degrees. I have a calcium test kit for saltwater that reads at about 5 degrees assuming it works in fresh water. The PH for both is about 8.2 as well. The test strips read 0 for chlorine but I did dose Prime. Temperature=75 degrees. 

July 23- set up quarantine tank with some water sprite and java moss, bare bottom with some small rocks. 

july 23-august 2nd added Seachem Stability (no ammonia to really test for) 

Aug 5th- added 3 lipstick goby - ammonia starts to rise up to 0.25ppm, nitirites=0, nitrate=10

Aug 5-aug 12 added Seachem stability- no decrease in ammonia 

aug 10th added med trio - light feeding every 3 days and ammonia rising up to 1.0ppm, nitirites=0,  nitrate=10

aug 15-aug 18 heavy daily water changes to keep ammonia down- light feeding

aug 18- fritz zyme 7 added- ammonia=0.5, nitirites=0,  nitrate=10 (I did not change water for 4 days)  

aug18-aug 24 light feeding every 2-3 days and ammonia=0.25-0.5, nitirites=0,  nitrate=10

-I did have some biofilm on the glass but the light is not powerful enough to create algae I guess.  


Then for my 40 breeder I am less worried about because it is new and a  fishless tank. 

aug 16- tank filled with substrate and rocks. 

aug 18- plants added

aug 22- fritz zyme 7 added, ammonia=1.0, Nitrite=0.25

aug 23- ammonia=1.0, nitrite=0.25

aug 24- ammonia=0.75, nitrite=0.25


Right now it feels like the the only thing keeping my ammonia down is my water changes. Does anyone have any other suggestions as to how to get the cycle started a bit quicker? Or what could be my issue in starting my cycle? 

I don't want to take a sponge from my work tank because the fish are sick and it has black beard algae.

I could go get some RO water and see if the cycle will start in that.  

The Goby fish seem ok and are eating when fed, but I kind of feel bad that they have not been given that much. 

Thank you


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If you are doing med trio from coop the boxes say it disrupts your beneficial bacteria. Being a still cycling tank it may take quite awhile to establish.  I have no experience with using it during establishing a tank other than a non cycled hospital/qt so hopefully someone else has first hand knowledge.

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Got ya,  I did read that the meds would disrupt the bacteria growth. After stopping the meds, doing the water changes and adding new bacteria,  I expected to see progress more quickly when comparing it to my work tank.  As nothing looks overtly wrong I will keep on with the water changes and be patient.  Thank you for your advice.  

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A bare bottom tank has less surface area for bacteria to grow. An inch of gravel in the bottom of the tank would likely increase the avaiable surface area for bacteria by about sixteen-fold or so. A typical ten gallon tank is about ten inches high, ten inches front to back, and twenty inches side to side. Each ten by twenty surface is 200 sq inches and then the two sides are 100 sq inches so you've got 600 square inches of bacteria inhabitable surface area. If you add an inch of 1/8" diameter, perfectly round gravel then each piece of gravel will have a surface area of about 0.051". It will take about 195,000 of them to reach a depth of one inch. (Or so my math says.) Then 195,000 pieces of gravel with a suface are of 0.051" gives you about 9,945 additional square inches of surface area for bacteria to colonize. So, in a bare bottom tank you've got 600 sq inches of space for bacteria, but in a tank with one inch of 1/8" diameter gravel you've now got that original 600 sq inches plus an additional 9,945 sq inches of gravel surface area. And bear in mind, these are all balpark figures. Gravel isn't perfectly round, where it meets other surfaces bacteria may have a hard time growing, gravel isn't uniform in diameter, etc. But, it gives you a rough idea of how beneficial gravel can be in giving bacteria a place to live. A bare bottom tank will always be harder to cycle than a tank with gravel or substrate. There's just less space for the bacteria to colonize in a bare bottom tank. If you use smaller diameter gravel you increase the surface area even more. If the gravel has some porosity you increase it even more. Glass just isn't an ideal surface for bacteria to live on and that makes cycling a bare bottom tank more challenging. It can be done, but it's always going to be harder and arguably less stable. Just sunlight hitting the glass can damage bacteria living on the glass. Bacteria tucked away in the gravel would be safe from the sunlight.

Edited by gardenman
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You have not said anything about your filter. We talk about cycling the aquarium, but it might be more helpful to look at it as cycling your filter. Beneficial bacteria needs a relatively rapid flow to to live and multiply in great numbers. If surface area in the aquarium were equal to surface area in the filter, we would not need filters for biological filtration. While some beneficial bacteria does grow in the aquarium, there is much more beneficial bacteria in the filter than there is in all of the surface area inside the aquarium. This is because of the rapid flow inside the filter.

If you have a cycled aquarium at work, take some of the filter media from that aquarium and put it in your home aquarium filter.

You are right to use water changes to control the ammonia. You will need to keep doing that until the aquarium is cycled.

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@gardenman I agree with your logic you are saying.  I did not put gravel in because it seems like the majority of people here keep their qt tanks bare bottom.  I am not opposed to adding some though. I just have 3 medium size stones in there now.  

As for filtering. I have an aquarium coop small size sponge filter in the 10 gallon tank. In the 40 breeder I have a medium sponge filter and a sunsun surface skimmer.  

As for lighting I have just a desk light on the quarantine tank and a fluval 3.0 on the breeder. 

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I too was struggling to keep my 10G QT tank cycled especially when there was no life in it. I keep mine going all the time, because I just never know if I will need it.. and come home with a random fish.. or a fish gets suddenly sick. Unless I have a serious illness then I will break it down and start over (which I have only done once and it was not due to illness.. just wanted do spruce it up a bit)

Mine is also bare bottom. What I did was put live plants in little terracotta pots, with gravel in the pots, a few rocks as well. I have a old HOB filter and a sponge filter. I added a few pond snails and a nerite to keep things going in there.. and if I need to use salt I can easily take the plants out and put them in a bucket with a airs tone (and snail can be moved out if needed). 

The plants in the little pots have really helped keep it cycled and also keep it balanced. I will use Fritz zyme 7 with larger water changes to keep it up (because I am paranoid)

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