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 Cycling a Tank with Seed Material

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Liz
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PostSubject: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:09 pm

I'd like to gather information from our members about their views on speeding up the cycling process. There is a TON of information out there about cycling a new tank, that's for sure, and there is also plenty of info about using seed material to do so. It is the effects of the seed material used, i.e. the quantity used and the age of it, and whether or not any actual cycle was detected in the new tank with levels of ammonia and nitrIte, no matter how low.

("Seed" material in this case refers to introducing to a new tank beneficial bacteria already present in a fully cycled tank, usually in the form of gravel, decorations and, the best is found in the filter)

I've cycled tanks in many different ways over the years, even with fish back in the day. I don't recommend this at all - it is so hard on the fish that it will either kill them outright or reduce their immune systems, should they survive, and render them more likely to fall ill - this is not scientific data and I'm making it up but I feel strongly it is true from my own experience. I've also done fishless cycles using pure ammonia and taking readings every day until the cycle is complete. I've used additives, and was one of the first people to use and write about BioSpira from Marineland way back when it was first introduced. I had it work sometimes, and not other times.

One great thing about having more than one tank is that you can simply use items from the tank as well as filter material to jump-start the cycle in a brand new setup - you've got your own BioSpira on hand at all times. I have cycled tanks "silently," in that after the introduction of the seed material (usually filter media or oftentimes the entire filter itself, with the new filter going on the mature tank for a while to get it started) and a light load of fish I had no measurable levels of ammonia or nitrIte. I have also had my cycle sped up, but not a silent cycle, in that I did measure low levels of ammonia and nitrIte but it was short-lived.

This has me thinking about the beneficial bacteria themselves and how it directly relates to the fish load. What I mean is, if you have a 20 gallon tank that is fully mature with a filter that has not been cleaned in a while, and you've got the tank heavily stocked, you'll feel pretty confident putting that filter or the filter media onto another 20 gallon tank that's new and is being set up, though you don't have near as many fish in the new tank. Is that TOO MUCH seed material, or too much bacteria?

Assuming there is enough bacteria in the old filter media to handle the ammonia load of the heavily stocked tank, will a portion of that bacteria DIE OFF because there isn't enough ammonia to feed it in the new tank? How does one measure such things? Would the death of a portion of the bacteria in the seed material cause an ammonia spike in the tank, and making the intended "silent" cycle not so silent? I hope I'm getting my question across here!

When you use the supposed live bacteria in a bottle in the various products available now, the instructions always assure you that you cannot overdose the tank. I went round and round indirectly with the developer of BioSpira, Dr. Tim Hovanec, on a forum I used to be on years ago and I never got a clear explanation, but he insisted that you can't overdose with the live bacteria, and whatever dies off does not create ammonia. This is counterintuitive to me but maybe I'm just dense.

I'll be seeding my 120 pretty soon, putting an established XP3 on the tank, swapped out with one of the clean new XP3's that's on there now. The tank with the mature XP3 has a bioload that is slightly greater than the bioload that I will have on the 120 initially, so I'm wondering if I will see an ammonia spike because of dying bacterial colonies. My gut says yes, I will, but does anyone have any theories or data regarding this?

I welcome all comments, assuming you've made it this far through the longest post in history? Sleep

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:31 pm

I have 2 experiences with it.. The first time I did is when I moved, and the second is when I sold my Africans, when I moved I took my established xp4 hooked it up to the tank new tank and water 2 hrs later put the fish in, no casualties no hang ups, 2nd time I did the same thing but with a used tank that I had, thought I could do the same thing....nope! For some reason it took forever to cycle ! 6 casualties Sad So I think u have a 50/50 chance, I thought an older tank would've been quicker, apparently not
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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:21 pm


Liz,

I would like to start off with how i jump start a new tank. I like to take a already well seeded sponge filter and squeeze its contents into the new tank and leting what ever filtration i have asorb the bacteria colony thus creating an instant cycle.

I do not fear that i have overdosed a bacteria colony due to the fact that the over abundent biomass does not just simply die off in one fell swoop, it slowly gets eaten away by the mass of the colony thus creating that beatiful balance that nature does oh so well.

If there were no ammonia for the bacteria to eat then the remaing nitrifyers would simply feed off of the other dying bacteria untill the domino effect takes place and there are no more nitrifyers. By the time this happens you will already be growing denitrifyers and possibly fungus depending on the amount of decay and acidity of the surronding colony. once the denittrifyers are dead the fungus will feed off of the nitrogen left behind.

I personaly have never used Bio-Spira, I do remeber the big buzz about it 8 years or so ago about but i had already had established tanks. I figured i wouldnt need that product do to the fact i can create my own fresh from an existing tank.

I think the logic behind the whole you cant overdose the bio-spira is that before you have a big kill off in the colony you will have already advanced the biomass enough to where it could handle its own waste from dying bacteria.

Just my thughts on your post, feel free to critique.

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:27 am

Ovyaker, I like learning about the experiences others have had, and I'm wondering if you can determine any factors that made it work once, and not the second time. Temperature, time the seed material spent in transit, pH variation, etc.? There are obviously more variables than we might be able to recognize.

Leanback, I like your explanation about potentially overdosing, and it makes sense to me. I've used BioSpira but at the time it came out I had plenty of tanks to get my own from, so I did not use it much, only to test it and write an article for my forum. It was very expensive! There was so much debate about it, even arguments broke out, lol.

I've seeded my tank and will report the results here soon! I don't generally record my tank cycling progress, since it goes on silently and I don't notice problems, but this time I want to document for the sake of helping newbies and examining the process in more detail.

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:37 pm

Ok, here's what I did:

120-gallon tank up and running for 7 days with sand, a few rocks and a few pieces of driftwood, all clean. Two XP3 filters running, clean, with new media. Temp 80 (no heaters running and my house is air-conditioned but my tanks are all 78-80).

Added 7 ~2 inch Gambusia females. These are locally collected and are almost identical to female guppies. About 4 hours later swapped one clean XP3 filter for an XP3 filter from my tank at work that has 5 fancy goldfish, all walnut to ping-pong ball in size.

12 hours later, measured 0.25 ppm NH3 or ammonia, zero NO2 or nitrite, and 5 ppm NO3 or nitrate. Hmmmmm. The fish look 100% normal. I did not feed them.

12 hours later got the same measurements. No change in the ammonia. Again, the fish look fine and the tank is crystal clear, and if I had not tested the water I would have ignored the whole thing and let them settle in as is.

However, since I'm doing an experiment, and due to the fact that ANY ammonia exposure can cause permanent gill damage to fish, I decided to add more biobugs. I squeezed a couple of AC70 sponges from my 10-gal snail tank into the tank water directly, clouding things up quite a bit, and hung a net bag of ceramic rings from the same filter in the path of the filter outflows.

12 hours later zero ammonia, zero nitrite and 5 ppm nitrate. Cycled!

So, even though I thought I would be overdosing biological bacteria into this new tank due to the lower bioload of the Gambusia than the goldfish, in fact I did not appear to have enough, or some of it died in the 15 minutes it took me to get the filter from my office to my home tank.

The disparity in tank sizes, 45-gallon goldfish tank versus 120-gallon Gambusia tank, ought not to have been a factor. OR, the biobugs in the 45 gal exceeds what is found in the filter, and is present all over the tank, so what is contained in the filter may not accurately represent the load in the tank it filters.

Anyway, another tank somewhat silently cycled. Very Happy

I'll leave these fish be for a while and will introduce some Denison's barbs (Puntius denisonii) that will be the dither fish for this tank. After that I will leave the tank be a while before adding angels. It is important to stock it very gradually - new tanks like this can crash easily.

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:43 pm

Why did you wait 12 hours later to test after you seeded a biomass the second time, I think that maybe the direct exposure from squeezing bacteria straight into the tank may have cleared the ammonia reading within the first hour, would have been intresting to see.

did you pull your water samples from the same area of the tank each time? If so where were at in the water column, a 120h is a fairly large tank. I would assume there could be dead spots unless you have some power heads creating a nice current.

This is a very intresting project glad to see you are sharing your information. Wheres the popcorn.
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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:11 pm

D'oh! I did not even think to measure the ammonia immediately after the sqeezin's! That would have been really good to know. I don't test aquarium water hardly ever, so I'm not in the habit, but I should have for this test.

Yes, I'm taking the readings from the same spot, and I don't think there are any dead zones, with 2 XP3's running. I can feel gentle current when I've got my hand in there, since there's not much decor at all to obstruct the water flow, but I'm interested to know if indeed there ARE dead spots. There could be in the lower corners, for instance. If I had no fish in this tank I'd take Rid-Ich or something like that as a test, adding it to the tank and observing how the color spreads.

I'm thinking this kind of blip in the ammonia may occur every time and I just don't know it because I don't typically test the water when seeding like this, and the fish act normal.

So, I'll swap out the Gambusia for some Denison's Barbs, closely approximating the bioload of the Gambusia, and test again. When I add my angels later on I will need to add a good group all at once in an effort to keep the peace (while they're juvies anyway, all bets are off once they start pairing) so I will probably add more seed material when I add my angels.

I don't have this tank planted, since plants love ammonia and I didn't want to skew the results (another great way to silently cycle a tank - loads of thriving plants) but I will be adding plants slowly in the coming weeks once I get my lighting straight.

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:08 pm

I have had many discussions on this matter with many hobbiests. The term "instant" becomes a technical term that some will argue. I don't care what anyone calls it, it works.
I have run new filters on established tanks (nitrates for more then 90 present) for 2 weeks or longer until setting up a new tank.
I have also used the mechanical filtration (poly-fil) that was all brown and gunky and put into a brand new filter. I have also use lava rock and ceramic rings from established tanks in new filters. I have also put substrate from an established tank with gravel into containers and placed under new filter intake.
All of these methods I have had success with. I do monitor ammonia and nitrites during the first week. After that its regular water changes and feeding as normal.
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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:04 pm

There's no question it works, and thank goodness it does - it makes life so much easier, provided the seed material comes from a disease-free source.

The thing I keep seeing over and over, on forums and "ask.com" type sites is where people are given the advice to seed an aquarium, which is fine and is very popular advice, but they're telling them to seed the tank for a week BEFORE putting fish in.

This is like the other very popular advice you see out there on the web to "cycle" the tank for a week to allow the "biological filter" to establish and grow throughout the tank, BEFORE putting fish in. It seems people know about these processes but not how they really work.

The missing bit of info is that this bacteria needs to be fed, and it will starve out and die within hours (I need a reference on this but I know I've read academic literature on the topic) if you don't provide fish waste for it, flowing over it. Also, that the bacteria won't colonize in a tank without fish, no matter how many weeks you run it empty.

I'm sure over time these facts will spread to the general public, lol! I can remember a time, in the early 1980s, when there was no such thing as cycling a tank, and ammonia removing chips were your best friend. Water changes were also not good for a tank, and even moderately hard tap water would kill all your fish outright. This was, of course, before internet, so once that happened news began to spread.

Thanks for reading, everyone! My posts are always SOOOOO lonnnnnngg!! Embarassed

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Wed May 14, 2014 11:42 pm

Thanks Liz and others for sharing all this valuable info. I am setting up a new 29G tank, my first. I have been runnng it without plants or fish for over a week now. When I filled it, I had put the Tetra AquaSafe Plus (dechlorinator, 15 ml/30G) and Tetra SafeStart Plus (Bacteria, 100 ml/40G). Temprature is set at 80. The tank has 40 lb of Carib-Sea Eco-Complete substrate for a planted aquarium. I plan to add decorations, couple of live plants and a few aquatic plant bulbs (placed on root-tabs) tomorrow and then 4-5 community fish on Friday.

Do I need to add more Safe Start Plus immediately in preparation of fish addition on Friday? Because from what I am reading, the bacteria dies without fish. What else am I missing?

I do have an old 20G tank with its filter, gravel, decorations etc. in my garage that a friend was throwing away. It was emptied couple of months back. Can I benefit from it somehow?
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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Thu May 15, 2014 12:11 am

Seeding certainly is the quickest and arguably one of the best way to cycle a new tank. The old 20 gal. with filter, gravel and etc. won't help at this point as emptying has allowed the beneficial bacteria to die off. Follow closely the directions supplied by Safe Start Plus, and you should be safe. It is true that unless you add fish who combined with their biologic processes, as well as fine particles of un eaten food that creates ammonia the cycle process can die off. To be safe, buy a good test kit, or take your water to a reputable fish store for testing before adding fish. That being said though the directions on your Safe Start probably say to add fish after using proper amounts as directed. This does work for many as the fish do help with the cycle processes. If you do add fish IMO I would start with two or three first then give it a couple weeks and if tank cycled properly, then add more. Sometimes adding a lot of fish at once creates spikes in the cycle that could permanently weaken, and or kill your fish.
Good luck and keep us posted of your progress. Post picks of the stages toward completion so we can follow along with your creation and success.

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Thu May 15, 2014 2:25 am

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PostSubject: Re: Cycling a Tank with Seed Material   Thu May 15, 2014 9:46 am

Ron wrote:
Seeding certainly is the quickest and arguably one of the best way to cycle a new tank. The old 20 gal. with filter, gravel and etc. won't help at this point as emptying has allowed the beneficial bacteria to die off. Follow closely the directions supplied by Safe Start Plus, and you should be safe. It is true that unless you add fish who combined with their biologic  processes, as well as fine particles of un eaten food that creates ammonia the cycle process can die off. To be safe, buy a good test kit, or take your water to a reputable fish store for testing before adding fish. That being said though the directions on your Safe Start probably say to add fish after using proper amounts as directed. This does work for many as the fish do help with the cycle processes. If you do add fish IMO I would start with two or three first then give it a couple weeks and if tank cycled properly, then add more. Sometimes adding a lot of fish at once creates spikes in the cycle that could permanently weaken, and or kill your fish.
Good luck and keep us posted of your progress. Post picks of the stages toward completion so we can follow along with your creation and success.

I agree with Ron. Seeding requires active living bacteria... Smile 

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