Jump to content

New aquarium - After cycling with bottled bacteria, do you add in only plants or only fish or both?

The Lone Aquarist

Recommended Posts

Hi. I'm new to freshwater but been in the aquarium hobby for many years. My daughters wanted to set up a small nano aquarium. I have the aquarium just setup and running with RODI water -- that is what I use for my saltwater displays -- but with freshwater, do I cycle the tank with plants and starter bacteria, or is it more common to add starter bacteria and in time add in plants and fish when the tanks shows no nitrites and ammonia?

And can shrimp be used in lieu of fish at the start of a new aquarium?


Thank you for any advice. Cheers!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would put your plant in the tank and keep adding bottle bacterial and leave for week retest I would not add fish till your ammonia and nitrites read zero and nitrate read about 10-20 

Edited by Colu
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  1. You can add plants at any time, and in fact they're likely to help with cycling by taking up some of the ammonia and nitrates.
  2. Unless there's an issue with your tap water you should be able to use it in your freshwater tank instead of RO water, which as mentioned above will need to be re-mineralized.  The vase majority of them are run on tap water.  Of course if you're on a municipal or other water system you'll need to add something to remove the chlorine and/or chloramine.  I'm on well water, so it goes straight in the tank without any additives.  In fact, when doing water changes on the 65 gallon tank I usually drag a hose in from outside and fill it with that.
  3. It's considered controversial by some, but there are many experienced fish keepers who advocate for a fish-in cycle.  In that case you add just a few hardy fish at the start, monitor your water often with a reliable test kit, and change water when needed to keep the combined ammonia and nitrites low; ideally below 0.50 ppm, but definitely below 1.0 ppm.
  4. If you want to do a fishless cycle then yes, you'd wait with adding the fish until your tank can process a given amount of ammonia so that there's a reading of 0 on ammonia and nitrites within 24 hours.  That amount will depend on how heavily you're dosing with ammonia and what the stocking level will be.
  5. Shrimp are generally more sensitive to poor water quality and/or changing water parameters than fish, so it's best to wait with adding them.  In fact, many experienced shrimp keepers recommend letting a tank run for at least 60 days, and ideally 90, to allow it to build up bio-film for the shrimp to graze on.
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my area we have very soft water, under 30ppm GH at the tap. Depending on the type of fish I am keeping I add:

Nothing for south american fish that like soft acidic water, some minerals build over time with evaporation if I don't have a lid on.

A small amount of crushed coral/aragonite in the filter or substrate which gradually buffers the water for "normal" fish and invertebrates.

A large amount of crushed coral/aragonite + wonder shell for fish accustomed to very hard water.

I also feed a calcium containing food to my shrimp a few times a week to help them grow. 

Regarding cycling, I use plants and snails to get it started, then add fish once the tank is seeded with bacteria. The cycle completes with fish in. In case of ammonia/nitrite spikes, I use Seachem prime to bind it until the bacteria catches up.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, The Lone Aquarist said:

Thank you @JettsPapa and @CT_ — in our area of Orange County our water has chloramines — I could make water that bypasses my DI sections.  

if I was to remineralize what products or components are you using?



There are a number of products on the market that will neutralize chlorine and chloramines.  Seachem Prime is probably the best known, and most recommended.

Again, you can do what you want, but using RO water in a freshwater tank is often more work than you need to be doing.  My water comes straight from a well, and I don't add anything other than fertilizer for the plants.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you every one for your feedback.


Since i have my own RODI system and its just part of my husbandry workflow with three=  ~100 gallon water tanks (the float switches are lower in the tank to prevent flooding) we have found it easier to generate 2 five gallon Carboys dosed with Equilibrium &  soda ash for alk and keep them air tight and at temp -- similar to how I keep my saltwater ready in the tanks for water changes or QT needs.

We have been dosing 0.2mls of EasyGreen once a week in each tank. So far the plants are appear to be doing well.

QUESTION: I have made some acrylic lids -- because we lost fish to jumping. I am wondering if gas exchange is decreased too much if a lid that is built to fit and overlap the glass rim, which causes a very clean but sealed fit -- please note the back 1/8th of the nanos are exposed AIO system compartments and those are not covered so are exposed to the air  --- and the falling water coming out from return is exposed as well. I want to add bubblers in one of the AIO chambers.

So far, the fish seem ok and no one looks like they're gasping at the surface and parameters seem good. I think the plants from coop jump started the cycling -- I did add in Seachem Stability the first two weeks in small doses.

I'll add pictures soon. Thank you again.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

So tonight my daughter and I installed the air lines.   Here are pics of the Nano aquariums on either side of her vivarium. 


Left aquarium:





Right aquarium:




Here are close ups of the lids I built for my daughter’s setup:


and here we installed the air lines because we were concerned of the sealed tops.  

The single usb air pump runs both:

From the air pump it goes to a check valve then to a y splitter going to both aquariums.  

The air lines are running to the back of the tanks: 


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...