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Is my aquarium cycled??


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I am starting a new 29 gallon aquarium that is to be planted. I’ve watched many videos on how to cycle but I’m still worried I will mess something up. So my question: is using fish food and fritz nitrifying bacteria the best method for a planted aquarium? If not please tell me what is.


also how much food should I put if I use this method 

Edited by NickD
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You've got lots of choices for cycling.

Adding fish food and fritz nitrifying bacteria will work.  The fish food will decay, producing ammonia, which will "feed" your cycle.  Bacteria will grow and consume the ammonia, producing nitrite.  Other bacteria will (later) grow to consume the nitrite, producing nitrate.  Nitrate is less toxic to fish and is removed by either (a) water changes, or (b) plants (there are other things that can remove nitrate).

Now, as to the source of ammonia, there are several.  This include (but are not limited to):

  • fish food
  • Dr Tim's Ammonium Chloride solution
  • clear ammonia solution (for cleaning) from your supermarket
  • seafood (fresh or frozen) from your supermarket left to rot in the aquarium
  • anything that will rot and produce ammonia

You can speed along the cycling process by moving over biological filter media from other tanks.

Do you have any other tanks and, if so, what types of filters are you using for the new and old tank?

Edited by Galabar
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On 7/1/2023 at 2:19 PM, NickD said:

So my question: is using fish food and fritz nitrifying bacteria the best method for a planted aquarium? If not please tell me what is.

That's how I do it! I think you'll have success with this method. Food is your ammonia source And then the bacteria is your starter.

As long as filtration is working and able to mechanically and biologically cycle the tank, then you're good to go. Keep the tank stocking light and that also helps too. 

On 7/1/2023 at 2:19 PM, NickD said:

also how much food should I put if I use this method 

Just a normal amount. Usually a pinch every few days.

Once you have food in there, just give it time. You might only have to "feed the tank" 2x a week at first while it's getting going.

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Hey Nick, welcome to the forum.

It is super normal to get confused as a newbie. But I'm happy to see you have been doing your research.


To simply put it, for the cycle, you will first need an ammonia source in the tank. Two types of bacterias, one turn ammonia to nitrite, other one turns nitrite to nitrate.


basically when your fish poop, when there is a decaying food or plant matter, dead fish/inverts, etc., ammonia will come ot. So when you have an established beneficial bacteria colony, they will help you to convert these from toxic ammonia and nitrite to nitrate, which is much less toxic. 


So, the purpose of adding fish food here for cycling is letting it decay, and cause it to provide ammonia to the water column. So with the existence of ammonia, you can start working on your cycle. 

I usually go for very small pinch of daily fish food. I add bottled bacteria when I first see the ammonia. Well, after this, it is all about testing and monitoring your parameters. First try to see ammonia in the water column. then gradually it will become nitrite and ammonia will decrease. Then nitrite will start to converting nitrate. when all is cleared up and all you read is nitrate, you are usually good to go. However, please note that, you will still need to monitor your tank parameters closely, and try to stock your tank veeery slowly even after the cycle. As well as keeping the amount fed low to not create a high bioload from the beginning. More food, more poop, more ammonia. Let your filter to catch up with your stock even after all the cycling is done 👍🏼


I have to mention that I find fish food messy. The decaying food leeches other stuff to the water column as well and it starts molding/grows fungus. When I cycle with fish food, I personally cycle the filter in a separate tub, and then when the cycle is complete, I squeeze the sponge there make sure I won't carry any mess to the tank and clean it. And directly run that cycled filter in the tank with a low stock at start and gradually increase the stock over time. Prevents the mess to a good degree and always works for me. Oh and the amount of ammonia comes out of fish food will never be stable.


Another option can be using an aquarium safe ammonia like Dr tims one and cycling with that. That way you can pour in the bottled bacteria on day 1. For fish food, I usually wait a few days to start dosing bottled bacteria because well, it takes time for it to release ammonia.


I'm not going into the detail of having established filter on hand type of cycling as you mentioned you don't have access to any.

On 7/2/2023 at 12:19 AM, NickD said:

fritz nitrifying bacteria the best method

I have only used Stability and it always worked for me, but if you can get your hands on fritz , stability or tetra safestart plus, usually all should do fine.  I like the fact that they all introduce all type of bacteria you need directly. Expecting it to grow by itself takes much longer in my experience. 





Edited by Lennie
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On 7/1/2023 at 8:29 PM, Pepere said:

@Lennie, what sort of cycle times have you seen with dosing stability?

10-14 days.  5-7 if you have low stocking.  <--- This is from starting with new equipment and media.

Sidenote.... most people often forget that bacteria likes oxygenation to grow.

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On 7/2/2023 at 2:37 PM, Pepere said:

Ok, I guess this begs the question of how one defines a tank as cycled…

The end point I used was cycling to the point that a 2ppm challenge of ammonia would be fully metabolised to nitrate with 0 ppm ammonia and or nitrite present 24 hours after challenge dose.

cycling to this level required the same amount of time whether I dosed multiple brands multiple times, or didnt dose at all…

All tanks were heated to 76 degrees, had multiple airstones and ph of about 7.4.

I truly wanted to believe the bacteria in a bottle products were doing something good for my tanks…. I came away with a high degree of skepticism instead…


Honestly if I lightly stock a tank with fish and lightly feed them, the cycle will establish much faster than running a fishless cycle.


Fish poo alone will richly seed your tank with beneficial bacteria…. Perhaps this is what leads people to believe Stability gives a quicker cycle, if they are stocking lightly immediately and asigning the benefits to the stability as opposed to the fish…

I usually cycle my sponges with around 1ppm ammonia. But until I read this 1ppm ammonia, there is usually always varying rates of ammonia everyday already due to fish food being quite inconsistent.

I personally think 2ppm makes more sense if someone will be stocking heavily from start or so. I have no clue how this "2ppm" is decided on. Never searched for the reason behind it. But I personally have never issues cycling this way myself.


If I gotta be honest, I can't remember how long it took with only fishfood and stability. As after setting the first tank, I've always used filter gunk while cycling sponges, or exchange a handful of biomedia from an established HOB to a new one.


I don't use bottled bacteria when I cycle a new tank with established media transferred with a HOB. I add it to my tubs where I cycle sponges for the fish room.

What I do is, I add filter gunk of established tanks in a big tub, this alone usually reads 0.5 ammonia after sitting for a short time. I directly add stability here on the day one as there is ammonia already, as it is mainly poop water or decaying stuff included. I have to mention this, I ALWAYS underdose stability, and I use it in a tub of 6 sponges at a time. I never double dose on day one, and I use only like half cap for a 70 liters tub with 6 sponges in. That is actually a waay underdose.

I just see it as an assistance, as it directly introduces all types of bacteria I will need. Then I start adding a pinch of fish food or a fish wafer to the tub daily. Usually for a week. When it reaches around 1ppm ammonia, I stop using fish food. The thing is, as I use fish food, the amount of ammonia can take time to build up, is inconsistent until it reaches to my desired point and may keep leeching overtime. This can easily effect the cycling time that has nothing to do with stability. I can add fish food and see its ammonia 3 days later maybe for each pinch. But if I used Dr Tims ammonia, that would directly give me the desired ammonia on day 1 and shorten the cycling time very much I think.

This way, it takes me around 2-2.5weeks to cycle 6 sponges. I have never had issues with this cycling method myself.

Edited by Lennie
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So I have another aquarium that has been stable for many months now. I have a siphon to pick up poop, dead parts of plants, etc.

I need to cycle my new 29 gallon aquarium that has fluval aqua soil as the substrate. 

Now people have told me that adding fish food and nitrifying bacteria (bottled) would do the trick. I see why now but I have another idea!


1. Use siphon to put the fish water that contains fish waste, dead parts of pleats, etc from stable tank into bucket.

2. Put that water that has fish poop, dead roots, or whatever into new 29 gallon

3. Test water and watch for algae growth

My guess is that adding raw ammonia like fish food is the same as adding  ammonia from another tank. If my chemistry is right, I don’t see why not. But I would love to see what y’all think. 

Edited by NickD
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You will need consistency, likely you will only be able to move your decaying plants and fish poop once and then its over. You won't be able to add it every day for some time, and you can't target an exact ammonia amount this way. Same goes for squeezing filter.

Also majority of the stuff you are planning to move likely already leeched the ammonia, so you won't see much numbers I feel like.

If you have a cycled tank and not willing to spend on a bottled bacteria, add fish food and squeeze filter gunk to the new tank. 

however, you should make sure  your tank has no disease whatsoever. Otherwise, basically you will transfer everything to a new tank too. And don't forget, one fish may not show symptom regarding to a disease but maybe it affects another.

Edited by Lennie
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I move a sponge filter from another tank, usually, and lightly blind feed the tank.  I also usually add fish gradually once I see ammonia converting to nitrites, then finally to nitrates.  Sometimes I squeeze mulm from an older sponge filter into the new tank if I have to set up a whole new filter.  I also have sponge blocks that were in active tanks that I have cleaned and saved.  If they fit into the new filter, I put them in.  Even though they don’t have active bacteria, they almost certainly have bacteria spores on them and the tank always cycles faster than with all new filters.

Getting bottled bacteria is another way but not all seem to be equal.  The pond starters are more concentrated and appear to work just fine.  Myself and some friends have been playing with PondWorx a bit for a variety of things but all indications are that it has significant beneficial bacteria at a very good price.  You would need only the smallest container to last quite a long time for aquariums since about 2.0 mls is enough for 10 gallons of water.

You can also transfer live plants, or a bit of substrate from an active tank.  There are lots of ways to speed up the process.

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I’m new but what I did was add 2 Platys to my 20 gallon and then another like 2-3 weeks later and then slowly add more fish and plants over a couple months or so. That of course was my first tank. I think I stole some of the gravel to throw in my 5 gallon with my betta to jump start it.  5 gallon is harder to cycle I think. Took way longer. 

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In my most recent tank I:

1) Installed a custom UGF

2) Added a pea gravel substrate.

3) Added some substrate from a cycled tank to the top of the pea gravel substrate.

4) Added a bottle(16oz) of Fritz 7.

5) Added frozen jumbo shrimp to the aquarium.

6) Waited for ammonia to go to zero

7) Added 10ml of store-bought ammonia to bring tank to ~ 1ppm

8 )Waited for nitrite to go to zero.

9) Made sure ammonia was zero.

10) Added fish.

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On 7/2/2023 at 5:21 PM, NickD said:

Please list y’all’s way of cycling your freshwater tank step by step

1.  Level the stand, find a good location.
2.  Add the tank, check again.
3.  Add in the substrate, some of the decor and work on that aspect.
4.  Add some water, check again.  (1/3 full, 1/2 full, then when full)
5.  Add in air or filtration, something to move water.
6.  Wait a few days, get rid of all the bubbles on the glass.
7.  Add in bacteria or just wait.  Do a water change, add in plants when the tank is drained.
8.  Fill it up and let it run a bit more.
9.  Add in some food to start cycling the plant, add the background, check light settings.
10.  Check the water parameters, add in some food every few days.  If I look at the tank and visually see food then I assume filtration is not adequate.
11.  Patience, wait, monitor.
12.  Add in a single or a very small amount of fish.  Keep testing over the next week, daily.

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Put water in tank that is roughly close to the temp I want to run it. Either take one of the extra sponge filters I usually have in a tank, or if I use a new one, I take one from an established tank and squeeze all the gunk out of it into the new tank. Let it run for a few hours to a day then add fish. As long as you don't ad too many fish at once it will be fine. I have set up many tanks this way, including quarantine tanks. 

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