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Fish Food--> Ammonia


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Okay, I have sadly accepted that my bio bugs have died. I cycled in my empty 29 gal but I guess I didn't feed the bugs often enough. So I did not learn of their deaths until I tried to cycle another filter on it and bring it over to a 10 gal quarentine tank. I have added fish flakes and freeze dried bloodworms every day for over a week, and the params are still this:

ammonia: 0

nitrite: 0

nitrate: 5

STILL! How long does it take for the fish food to break down to ammonia? I remember it took a while, but not this long! I was planning on getting some tropical fish this week, and it was perfect cuz we have the whole week off from school, so I can watch them and be distracted, but not distracted from hw or schoolwork. I guess it was too much for my luck to handle lol. So...am I just being impatient or is something wrong? It seems like everything is taking too long. I planted some dandylion seeds last week also, and nothing has happened ._.

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:) Unfortunately, there is no hurrying the process. Even with pure ammonia, the cycling process takes many weeks - it can take up to 8-12 weeks to fully cycle a tank. My 75 gallon took approx. 10 weeks from setup to full cycle, doing a fishless cycle with pure ammonia on day1.

To fishless cycle with the fish food, you add a significant amount of fish food (usually flake food) to the tank, and allow it to settle on the bottom, leave it there for about a week, which will allow the bacteria to gain food from the nitrogen that the rotting fish food will produce. After a week vacuum (or scoop) out the rotten fish food, and add some fresh food. Repeat this process for about two and a half to three weeks, to allow bacteria to begin to colonize your filter media. You do not have to use the expensive dried bloodworms - any flaked fish food will do.

Remember, it should be removed and replaced every week as you go - to allow for more rotting and processing of the food to encourage the beneficial bacteria to colonize in your tank. It can take quite a while.

There is a significant risk that you may create by-products such as phosphates, from the decaying food. If this happens you may need to dump the lot and start over. This is the main reason you want to remove the food once a week and put in new food.

You also may find that the ammonia produced might also be insufficient to "feed" enough bacteria to cycle the tank very quickly or efficiently.

Test your water after a week to see if you are getting any significant amounts of ammonia from the fish food. You may need to add more each week to convince the bacteria to set up shop.

I do have a couple of other suggestions/questions for you.....

HAve you tested your tap water? Is it possible that the nitrate you are seeing has come from the tap water, and not from a nitrogen cycle in the tank?

You have fish in a QT tank, right? I am assuming it is uncycled and that you are doing daily water changes to keep the ammonia under control. Right? Are the fish healthy but under quarantine? If so, how about adding all the waste water you take from the QT tank to the 29 gallon tank each day. It should be full of ammonia - the best possible thing for cycing. You would not have to use food, risk phosphate contamination, and the tank would really progress quickly. You have to change out the 10 gallon QT tank daily anyway - why not make it work for you?

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Thanks Daryl. Can you explain more about phosphate contamination? I posted a thread about biobugs poisoning themselves with nitrates (because it is their waste product) because my 29 gallon I was cycling with fish food suddenly became uncycled. Soo...that might be what happened there. There are no fish in my 10 gallon quarentine tank, and no fish in my 29 gallon either. I have a healthy ten gallon, but it only has two small tetras in there so it doesn't have that many biobugs to spare. I have had a lot of members to tell me to add a little fish food each day, and not worry about syphoning, and I never heard of your way, but it does sound more logical. I have not tested from my tap in a while, but I've always had about 5 at nitrates, and 0 ammonia and nitrtites.

So, its been a full week since I've started, and nothing has happened. Should I do a water change and add more, then wait another week like instructed? How big of a water change? I have not done any water changes in this 10 qt or the empty 29 yet.

Thanks Daryl :) I always enjoy your informative posts.

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Lert me see if I can explain the phosphate issue a bit......

Many people do not recognise that phosphates are something that occur naturally in many tanks - more in some than others. Phosphates are basically dissolved organic carbon - created in large part by decaying wastes in the tank. They can, given enough waste in the gravel or filter, cause problems....

Free Phosphate ions may bond with calcareous buffering material, precipitating calcium (kH) from your aquarium, and reducing your aquariums ability to keep pH stable. Binding the buffer and removing it from your water can cause pH upset - an unstable pH, which can be very problematic. This is why it is so very important to clean your filter pads regularly and vacuum the aquarium gravel with each water change - to prevent a buildup of waste and the subsequent phosphate. Phosphates can and do buffer a tank's water but that accumulation of phosphates will tend to buffer the water at a lower pH than goldfish usually thrive. (a phosphate buffered tank is usually in the mid 6's of pH as I understand it) A buffered pH is hard to correct - and a phosphate buffered pH is just as hard to adjust as a carbonate buffered pH. I prefer to work with the carbonate based buffering system.

To avoid this, you need to keep the amount of waste in your tank to a minimum - cleaning out the filter, cannister, filter sponge and gravel to keep the detrius at a minimum.

When you are doing a fishless cycle that uses fish food to create ammonia, that fish food, as it decays, can also produce large quantities of phosphates. There is a fine balance between leaving the food in long enough to create ammonia for your cycle to build from, and leaving it in too long and having it break down. This is why it is advisable to add a fairly large amount of cheap flake food, and then remove it all at the end of the week and add more. You should get enough decay to produce some ammonia, but not too much to make too much phosphate. This is going to take extra time to cycle a tank - for you need to buildup sufficiant ammonia to jumpstart the beneficial bacteria growing.

Phosphates, in themselves, are not harmful to the fish, per say - but can cause problems in combination with other factors in a tank.

Let's see if we can think up a better way for you to cycle that 29 gallon tank, OK?

You have a 10 gallon tank with a couple of little tetras in it. It is fully cycled - with sufficiant cycle to maintain the tetras, right? That means that all the bacteria you need is right there in that tank. You do not have to go anywhere (BioSpira or fish food) to get it!!!!! That is exciting.

As quickly as you could do a fishless cycle from "scratch" using pure ammonia, you should be able to "grow" yourself a cycle from that 10 gallon tank.

True - there is a very small bacterial population in the filters of that tank - there is little waste for the bacteria to feed upon - and they will only boost their population when they have the proper "food". But I bet we can use it, anyway. What if you took the media that you wish to use in your 29 gallon tank's filter and bagged it up, and dropped it either into the bottom of the ten gallon tank or stuck it in the filter of the 10 gallon? It wil inevitably "catch" some of the beneficial bacteria. They like to colonize any nice medium- they see a good new house and they will move in.

You will not necessarily grow more bacteria, but you can transfer some of the good stuff to the new media. Leave the media in the tank for about 2-3 weeks, running the filter and tank just as normally you would - water changes and all.

Then set up the 29 gallon tank. Condition the water, run the filter, heat the tank to about 78F if possible. Make it as pleasant an environment as possible. Now comes the fun part - get yourself one of your dream goldies - a baby if possible. Put the media that you "seasoned" from the 10 gallon tank into the 29 gallon tank's filter. Set the tank running. Put the little goldie in there. Feed him lightly and keep an eye on the water parameters. My bet is that the filter will rise to the challenge and the bacteria will grow to meet that little goldie's needs - most likely without a hiccup of any ammonia and very very little nitrite.

When you see the tank settle out to zero ammonia, zero nitrite for a week or so, and your nitrate starts rising (if you have 5ppm nitrate in your water, you need to see more than this number to know that you are getting nitrate from the nitrogen cycle and not the tap water!), you know that your tank is now supporting your little fishy just fine. You are ready to give him a companion. Introducing another fish will add a bit more waste to the nitrogen cycle. The bacteria will grow in population within a day or two to handle the extra "food", with very little or no noticable bump in the cycle. Now you have a tank that will support 2 goldies. If you wish, and depending on the goldies you have, you can add another fish at this time.

You have now cycled your tank with no stress to the fish. It is as if you had a tiny bit of BioSpira available and you grew your own bacteria from that start.....

Does that help?

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That helps TONS :) I have just a couple questions.

1) Should I use media to cycle for the 10 gal tropical qt or the 29 gallon for goldfish? Does it matter?

2) I have this product called "bio-zyme" and it is supposedly dried bio bugs that live forever. I used it before when I was fishlessly cycling the 29 gallon, and it defintately boosted the cycle. Should I use this? When can I?

3) For my 29 gallon filter, I have two large cartridges. Do I put both or one in the tetra tank? Do I put it on top or under the gravel? I do have some media that I got with my aquaclear filters (currently not in use). Would those work better than the cartridges? There's tons of room to keep them in my 29 gal filter after they have colonized from the tetra tank, but there is not any room in the qt's filter. Could I just drop the bag in the tank? After I "re-home" the biobugs from my tetra tank, will their be any problems I should watch for in that tank concerning the cycle?

Ooops...that was more than a few, sorry! I have never heard of this phospate poisoning. When I attempted to cycle my 29 gal, I never changed any of the water or cleaned anything. Maybe its a good thing that the cycle crashed, so I can start over with this new knowlege. Daryl, maybe you could pin something about this? Thanks for putting everything in dummy terms, I'm not doing well in my chem class :)

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I am not quite sure what you are asking in the first question, but I think you want to know where the media you will add should come from. It makes little difference. I generally like to use something that can fit in the new filter- the filter you will be using for the 29 - simply because the bacterial colonies always grow better when they have a place to colonize that has a ready access to the ammonia - ie: moving water through the filter that brings a constant souce - as well as a good supply of oxygen -something that is needed in the nitrogen cycle to process the ammonia. Without oxygen, there will be no cycle.

You have several options - as far as how to season the new media. The best way would be in a working filter - to supply the constant flow of water and oxygen. If there is no room in the qt tank's filter to add anything else, what about adding one of those aquaclear filters to the 10 gallon and set it going, full of media? I have had an aquaclear and a Penguin 110 running at the same time on a 10 with no bad effects - the guppies did just fine. I gave them some plants and rocks to hide and swim through and they were happy little guys.

So you stuff the aquaclear full of media and set it running on the 10QT. Let it run for 2 weeks, feeding your tetra fish the full amount of food - do not skimp on the food. Change the water out as you normally do - treat it all the same. Being a tropical tank, and thus warmer, it is even better!

At the end of two weeks, set up the 29 with its respective filters, heaters, bubblers, etc all going. I think I would then see if you can split the filter media from the original filter that is in the 10 gallon. Take a bit of whatever you have from there - 1/3 - 1/2 of it or so and drop some of the stuff from the newer aquaclear back into the qt filter to fill it again. Then take that aquaclear filter and hang it over the side of the 29 and set it going, too. Stuff the media from the qt tank into it or the new filters or anywhere you can stuff it.

Add your little goldie and test away. Do not wait more than 36 hours to add the goldie after you move the filters (media) - the sooner the better. You need to feed your bacteria!

If you take some - up to 1/2 of the media from the 10, I doubt that you will cause anything more than a 12 hour bump in the cycle. It is not a big bio-load, for the fish do not create so much waste that the ppm will jump too much within a day or two. That is plenty of time for the bacterial colony to respond and regrow to fill the needs of the tank. I do not think you will have any worries there. If you do see a bump, it should be a small, transitory one.

Do not put anything under any gravel. You are setting it up to be populated by many of the small critters that ineveitably live in the detrius in a gravel based tank. It will not recieve the proper oxygen or water turnover to properly colonate with beneficial bacteria. If you wish to lean the 29 cartridges up against the side s of the qt tank, you can, though. It is not as efficiant as media in a filter, but should work fine, also - particularly if you can lean them where the overflow from the filter will hit them.

I have never known bio-zyme to do anything, but since you have it and I love to be optomistic, why not add it when you start the 29 going? I have never heard of it doing anything bad, so take a chance that it might do something good! :)

After your 29 is all cycled and going, you might want to consider doing what I have done. I drop a small bag of lava rock, ceramic cylindars, bio balls or some such thing in the back, behind a decoration or plant and just let it be. Whenever I need a "seed" for a new filter or tank, I can pull one of these bags out from where they are stashed and use them. It helps set up an instantly cycled qt tank, or replacement of a blasted cycle when treating with meds. They are only good if the tank is healthy. After using a bag from a tank with potiential disease, it should be boiled and recolonated.


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I'm confused on tanks and filters..

I have a cycled 10 gallon tank with two tetras. Lets call that T10. Then there is an empty uncycled quarentine tank of 10 gallons that I want to use for more tropicals, that will later be added to live in the T10. The quarentine tank is QT10. Last I have an empty, uncycled 29 gallon tank which I plan to use for goldfish. Lets call this one G29.

I need to cycle both the QT10 and the G29. Would it be best to use a 100gph penguin mini with a ten gallon tropical tank, or a 150 gph aquaclear? I have both. If an aquaclear is alright, I could add it on to the T10 to gather some bio bugs. After 2-3 weeks, I could move that aquaclear to the QT10 and fill it with new arrivals. After a 4-5 week quarentine, I will move the fish over to the T10, and replace the crappy filter with the now cycled aquaclear.

There is tons of room in my G29 filter to put bags of aquaclear ceramic bioballs. While the new arrivals are being quarentined, should I use the second aquaclear in my T10 to gather biobugs, should I use some more bio balls and stuff them in the T10 filter, then after 2-3 weeks, move the bioballs to the G29 filter, then get my goldfish? Do I need to leave some bioballs in the T10 to stabalize the cycle? I love the idea of keeping extra cycled bioballs in tanks for those "just in case" scenarios :)

Sorry for my confusion!

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Who's on First.


I did not realize that T10 and QT10 were two different tanks.....

If you have NO fish in the 29 gallon, you can by-pass the QT10 and go directly to G29. It can serve as your QT tank if you wish. Having the large water volume to the one small fish will assure that even with a less than robust bio-cycle, the ammonia/nitrite values never climb very high before the bacteria can grow to process them all.

If you think that there is going to be a good chance that you are going to get a fish that will need more medical treatment beyond a simple .3% salt for the 4 weeks of QT, then you might want to use the 10. Meds come in 10gallon increments and it is much cheaper to treat 10 gallons than 30.

So lets look at this with two senerios....

1. Stick the aquaclear on T10 to gather bio-bugs. Transfer it to qt10 and get "new arrivals". (Are these to be goldies or more tetras?) You then qt these fish in QT10 for approx. 4 weeks and put them back in T10 - (so I am assuming they are tetras?) - and replace the filter that is on T10 with the aquaclear(which was on QT10 (the filter you wish to stay on this tank). I would make sure you transfer all the media that is in the "crappy" filter to the aquaclear so that you lose nothing if you abandon the "crappy" filter. Now you will have a 2 cycled filters - the one from the qt10 and the "crappy" one from T10. YOu can put them anywhere you wish. IF you abandon one, take all the media from it and use it in a tank - G29 or T10. (The Penguin Mini is a fine filter, except that it has very little place for any extra media - it relys mostly on the cartridge and the mini-biowheel. I prefer to have some bio-balls or some such stuff - it is more transferable.)

2. You really did not want to get more tetras, and wish to go straight to the goldies. You can do it just as before, but, instead of putting the goldies back into T10, you can move them to G29 along with their filter. While they are in quarantine, you can season those bioballs in T10. Add all the bio-balls and the filter from the qt10 to the G29 when you add the goldie. It will grow there. If you only take out what you have created as extra in T10, and/or no more than 1/2 of the "old" biomedia from that filter, it should regrow to handle the 2 tetras without a problem - most likely without a single bump that you ever see.

Oh, ack. I am going to go and get my head to stop spinning and see if I can come back when I do not have a meeting coming up and can sort this out so it is plainer.....



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Thanks Daryl, it makes sense now :) I hope my labeling of tanks did more good than bad with confusion. I'm going to go with scenario #1 because I promised my lonely tetras a long time ago I would get them some friends :) After the new tropicals are done with quarentine and settled happilly in the T10, I'll go looking for goldies. So far, all LFS's I have been to are infested with parasites, fin rot, etc, at least with all of their goldfish. I have never been able to keep a goldfish alive more than a few weeks because of the parasites it came with :( I did hear about a tropical LFS that is supposed to be a dream..its a roller rink converted into a fish store with every tropical fish imaginable! They have ad5 in the Classifieds once a week, so I know they have fantails, but I'm not sure about other types of goldfish...I guess we'll see!! I'm so excited to this fish store :D Anyways, I will want to keep new goldfish in the QT10 tank before adding them to the 29 gallon.

I thought of something!

While the new tropicals are in quarentine, I can stick my second 150 aquaclear on the T10 with the two tetras and season that. After 4-5 weeks (hopefully no more) I will go goldfish hunting. When I bring one home, I'll aclimate pH's with it in a bucket. While new goldie is acclimating, I'll move the trops to the T10 to join my tetras, along with their aquaclear filter. I'll move the now seasoned aquaclear from the T10 to the QT10. (so basically, switch the 2 aquaclears) Wait....is it better to switch them or to just leave the filters?? Anyway, when everything is ready, goldie goes into QT10.

Eeek hopefully I didn't rattle your brain even more with that o_O

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