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Opinions on how to start cycling a tank

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**For the below, we are assuming no established tank to pull bacteria from**

I have been looking online, and have seen 2 main schools of thought on cycling a new tank:

1) Cycle from day one with plants in the tank, and low light.

2) Start the cycle with absolutely nothing living in the, and also no light until ammonia and nitrites are zero (usually 1-2 weeks). Then and a couple plants, use low light, and add a few fish once every 1-2 weeks depending on ammonia and nitrite levels.


The second option seems to be the safer option and allows the bacteria to grow gradually with the load in the tank. Thoughts?

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Potting soil that is growing plants and soil under your lawn assuming no pesticide use is rich in active nitrifying bacteria unlike spores from bacteria in a bottle.  Black Kow composted manure is also rich.  A cup of any in them in a mesh bag right next to your filter will jump start the cycle in my experience much faster than bacteria in a bottle products.  

I spent over a hundred dollars on various brand bacteria in a bottle product dosing multiple times per week on my first tank and it took 2 months to get to where it would metabolise 2 ppm ammonia dose to 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites in 24 hours.


My second one with no product or seeding, just ammonia dosing as needed, cycled to metabolizing 2 ppm ammonia to 0 Ammonia, O nitrite in 24 hours after 8 weeks.

My third tank I used Black Kow ($6.47 for a cu ft.  Used 1 cup.  )next to the filter.  3 weeks…


Filter squeezings?  10 days to 2 weeks….


cycled sponge filter suitable for tank size?   Days…


That has been my experience,  your mileage may vary.

Edited by Pepere
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Assuming you have no other tanks in the house this is the process I would use.

Setup the entire aquarium including plants. It is a pain in the ass to go back later and add plants into the aquarium.

Get one or two sacrifice fish (guppies for example) 

Also get the liquid bacteria treatment.

Now fill the tank with chlorine-free water, add the liquid bacteria based on total volume of the tank, and add the fish.

Every day you need to test the tank and do water changes as necessary. Those fish may be sacrificial but that doesn't mean they need to die the first week.

With each water change add a bit more of the liquid bacteria based on the amount of water changed.

You should have a peaceful couple of weeks. But the tank STILL WILL NOT BE READY FOR THE NORMAL FISH LOAD. When you add the fish you want you will get a bacteria bloom. Just live through that and keep an eye on the parameters.

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 Would just add water, let it sit a day, then add fish (a modest amount, you want to gradually increase population of the tank over a period of time) and dose with Fritzyme 7. 

I don't think it needs to be over complicated.  As long as you're initially dosing with a good bacterial starter according to instructions (and not overstocking on day-one), you should be fine.

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@tolstoy21 Yeah I saw the bleach dip. Also saw a peroxide dip followed by a saltwater dip. I was opting for the later since it seems a bit safer for the plants. The peroxide kills off algae and most parasites, while the salt kills of the rest of the parasites and snail eggs.


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I’m curious, what are you disinfecting from the plants?  Plants are covered with the beneficial bacteria you are looking for. I normally just plop then in the tank, but I suppose I could leave them overnight in a seltzer bath if I worried about algae or snails. 

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@Ken Burke Looks like the seltzer water is going to be about as much as my plants cost, I am going to try the bleach and if that doesn't work, then I'll just buy more plants 🙂

I can see the reverse respiration being good for more expensive plants, or high quantity of plants though.

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On 7/18/2023 at 9:50 AM, Dork Fish said:

@Guppysnail Ah okay, I saw club soda and read it had extra minerals in it that seltzer didn't have. Didn't know if the extra minerals would be bad or not.

We did not test it but other folks have substituted it with success. 

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On 7/18/2023 at 6:52 AM, Guppysnail said:

We did not test it but other folks have substituted it with success. 

Hi @Dork Fish,

As @Ken Burke said, 

RR uses asphyxiation vs toxification to eliminate pests. They are eliminated due to a total lack of oxygen vs using poisons. As such, it leaves no residue but water once complete. It also has so far, enjoyed 100% pest elimination and about 98% as an algicide all the while, not damaging the plants. In part this is due to the high pressure in seltzer as RR is the only method, we’ve seen that reliably eliminates MTS due to this pressure penetrating the operculum. You’ll also notice plants become more rigid and greener as the CO2 charges the chloroplasts although we’ve yet to associate this to any growth stimulation.

The primary advantage in using RR vs more toxic and caustic methods is its efficacy and the lack of plant damage. Take a look at the microscope images comparing the chloroplasts of an anubias treated with 6 different methods. Notice the cellular damage that occurs in all but RR.


If you navigate to that area of the website, Reverse Respiration, there are video links as well. In them you’ll see chloroplast motion literally stops in all but RR and of course, untreated plants. Many people have reported a short-term growth acceleration as well. We did document one such growth spurt on a hornwort treated with RR which grew some 80% faster for about 3 weeks before normalizing.

We haven’t seen any discernable difference in performance between seltzer and club soda, most likely because the mineral content of club soda is so small.

Many people here use a SodaStream device as it’s substantially less expensive by volume than bottled. I have repeatedly purchased seltzer with delivery on Amazon where the price varies but averages at about 0.90/quart:

Amazon.com: Amazon Brand - Happy Belly Seltzer Water, 33.8 Fl Oz (1L) : Grocery & Gourmet Food, Good luck.

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