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from http://www.rexgrigg.com/cycle.htm

"... y setting up a tank and filling it full of fast growing stem plants one can add a medium to large fish load all at once and never see the traditional ammonia or nitrite spikes. The reason for this is simple. The plants love ammonia. So it never gets a chance to kill the fish. Also the plants come covered in beneficial bacteria that will start the traditional cycle. One advantage of this is that you are going to have a lot of stem plant trimmings to trade at the local fish store or send to your friends.

It is suggested that one use two bunches (4-6 stems each) of plants for each five gallons of water. Plants to use include Foxtail, Hygro (any color), Creeping Charlie, Red Ludwigia, Moneywort, Wisteria, Egeria, Shinnersia rivularis, (Mexican Oakleaf) or Water Sprite. Then after a couple of months one can start removing the stem plants and adding the other plants that you want.

Detailed Instructions
Setup the tank.
Add the hardware, filter, heater, etc.
Fill the tank and let it run for at least 24 hours to be sure things are working correctly and you have no leaks.
After this time drain the water down till the tank is 1/2 to 1/3 full (not needed on smaller tanks). Then plant your plants. It's a lot easier to plant them when the tank is not as full. Note that this applies to larger tanks more than smaller tanks.
Refill the tank.
Turn on the lights and wait a couple of days.
Then add some fish and start fertilizing.
After about 2 weeks you will need to trim the plants. If you have enough plants you will not have much of an algae problem. Don't be surprised though if you get a diatom (brown algae) bloom, I have yet to be able to bypass it.
Keep up with the fertilizing and trimming.
Do test the water for ammonia and nitrate. I have yet to see any detectable ammonia using the method but there is always first time. You may never see any nitrate levels either. This means you have enough plants in the tank and you need to dose nitrates.
Keep up with normal water changes and other maintenance and after a couple months you can start removing sections of the stem plants and replacing them with your aquascape."
____________________
I know I have a lot to learn, I'm getting tired of reading and looking at an empty tank that I have not even begun to cycle. This sounds like more fun than weeks of testing and dosing. But only if it works, of course.
 

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This is called silent cycling and there are things you have to watch out for:

1- Most important, you need to know how to grow underwater plants. It's not as simple as your houseplant. You need to know about lights, substrate, fertilization and CO2.

2- You have to have a LOT of plants and VERY FEW fish. Beginners will invariably have too many fish and not nearly enough plants. I remember when I thought a handful of M. Umbrosum was enough for 3 guppies in a 20 gallon tank. I was wrong.

The best, and easiest way to cycle a tank is to get someone's established filter media. It's simple, quick, and reliable.
 

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I've done this with a small eclipse tank. I think it was a 12 gallon with about 12 cherry barbs. The tank was stuffed full of plants and then the fish was added after a few days, I may have added the fish in two batches. I agree that you should probably have experience growing plants first before trying this, since this method requires that the plants are healthy when the fish is introduced. You should know, for instance, how much light you will have and what type of plants will grow in that amount of light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the advice. I would say I know only the basics of aquatic plants, but I have read enough to know it is not at all like growing house pants. Sorry flood of details below. Any reaction to any part is appreciated. I had assumed that the used filter media was part of the silent method, but the text only talked about the bacteria on the plants. But it doesn't seem like an either-or thing to me. Why not both?

Light: I have an empty 30g tank with two 20" T bulbs (for plants) and a bunch of stock LEDs (for fun) sitting in a well-lit window. I think that should suffice, though the tank is a half-moon shape and slightly more vertical than horizontal.

Substrate: I have plenty of laterite and 20 lbs. of the new formula (root-friendly wet, bioactive) Eco-complete. I wanted to add a bit of mineralized topsoil but will instead boil the ferts out of a few handfuls of potting soil. I'll top with plainish gravel; and sprinkle with black sand also used for the corner-border to hide the nutritious layers. I asked at Big Al's about dolomite and muriate of potash, to sprinkle at the bottom, but they said they did not carry it, so now am wondering whether some slow-release fert tabs would be a good alternate addition deep down.

Carbon: I had ordered an affordable pressurized CO2 system and solenoid that the Big Al's staff said would work; but when it came in they said it would not. So I'm instead building a yeast-based pop-bottle system. The separator is easy, but I am stuck on the reactor/diffuser-build question. (I wish I could simply attach it with a Y-join to the outflow tube of the filter's flexible tube meets the 8" stiff tube with holes, but this likely is not enough for good diffusion, so I'll try to follow www.qsl.net/w2wdx/aquaria/diyco2.html.) I expected Seachem Excel to get me by while I worked the bugs out.

Water safety: I am also still confused whether tap water is fine if it sits a few days or if it should be treated. (Someone said chloramine does not go away, only chlorine, another site said it is added to GTA water.) And I bought a driftwood-style branch glued to a rock from Big Al's that is too tall to boil in a pot. Would it be okay to pour a kettle of boiled water over it before putting it in? Oh, and I have never used an aquarium test kit before, but have at least noted the various values I am aiming for.

Flora: As soon as all that is solved, I thought I would ask Big Al's for a used filter pad to aid the silent cycling. But I am still unclear if it is just supposed to go in the filter canister or sit in the tank or what; or if I am supposed to take out the black (charcoal?) portion of the filter canister while cycling; or how long this should sit first/run seeded without plants or a few shrimp/tiny fish. I expected to buy a several of the recommended silent-cycle plants to start, and -- soon afterwards -- a few few neon-size fish or, preferably, tiny hardy shrimp (not sure which is better), and moss . . . but maybe a snail should come first if they eat brown algae so well.

Anyway, if the quasi-silent cycle works I will post about it.

This is called silent cycling and there are things you have to watch out for:

1- Most important, you need to know how to grow underwater plants. It's not as simple as your houseplant. You need to know about lights, substrate, fertilization and CO2.

2- You have to have a LOT of plants and VERY FEW fish. Beginners will invariably have too many fish and not nearly enough plants. I remember when I thought a handful of M. Umbrosum was enough for 3 guppies in a 20 gallon tank. I was wrong.

The best, and easiest way to cycle a tank is to get someone's established filter media. It's simple, quick, and reliable.
 

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Thanks for the advice. I would say I know only the basics of aquatic plants, but I have read enough to know it is not at all like growing house pants. Sorry flood of details below. Any reaction to any part is appreciated. I had assumed that the used filter media was part of the silent method, but the text only talked about the bacteria on the plants. But it doesn't seem like an either-or thing to me. Why not both?

Light: I have an empty 30g tank with two 20" T bulbs (for plants) and a bunch of stock LEDs (for fun) sitting in a well-lit window. I think that should suffice, though the tank is a half-moon shape and slightly more vertical than horizontal.

Substrate: I have plenty of laterite and 20 lbs. of the new formula (root-friendly wet, bioactive) Eco-complete. I wanted to add a bit of mineralized topsoil but will instead boil the ferts out of a few handfuls of potting soil. I'll top with plainish gravel; and sprinkle with black sand also used for the corner-border to hide the nutritious layers. I asked at Big Al's about dolomite and muriate of potash, to sprinkle at the bottom, but they said they did not carry it, so now am wondering whether some slow-release fert tabs would be a good alternate addition deep down.

Carbon: I had ordered an affordable pressurized CO2 system and solenoid that the Big Al's staff said would work; but when it came in they said it would not. So I'm instead building a yeast-based pop-bottle system. The separator is easy, but I am stuck on the reactor/diffuser-build question. (I wish I could simply attach it with a Y-join to the outflow tube of the filter's flexible tube meets the 8" stiff tube with holes, but this likely is not enough for good diffusion, so I'll try to follow www.qsl.net/w2wdx/aquaria/diyco2.html.) I expected Seachem Excel to get me by while I worked the bugs out.

Water safety: I am also still confused whether tap water is fine if it sits a few days or if it should be treated. (Someone said chloramine does not go away, only chlorine, another site said it is added to GTA water.) And I bought a driftwood-style branch glued to a rock from Big Al's that is too tall to boil in a pot. Would it be okay to pour a kettle of boiled water over it before putting it in? Oh, and I have never used an aquarium test kit before, but have at least noted the various values I am aiming for.

Flora: As soon as all that is solved, I thought I would ask Big Al's for a used filter pad to aid the silent cycling. But I am still unclear if it is just supposed to go in the filter canister or sit in the tank or what; or if I am supposed to take out the black (charcoal?) portion of the filter canister while cycling; or how long this should sit first/run seeded without plants or a few shrimp/tiny fish. I expected to buy a several of the recommended silent-cycle plants to start, and -- soon afterwards -- a few few neon-size fish or, preferably, tiny hardy shrimp (not sure which is better), and moss . . . but maybe a snail should come first if they eat brown algae so well.

Anyway, if the quasi-silent cycle works I will post about it.
Where are you located? You seem to rely on Big Al's a lot for advice and stuff, which is not always the best idea. :)

To answer your questions:

Bacteria Biofilter

I'm sure you know about the Nitrogen cycle, and how some bacteria eats ammonia and spits out nitrite, and other bacteria eats nitrite and spits out nitrate. Nitrate is relatively non-toxic and is the end result of our Nitrogen cycle in most Fresh water aquariums.

Silent cycling is different: it relies on plants to absorb ammonia. That means the plants and bacteria are in direct competition with each other. Silent cycling actually slows down the establishment of your bacterial biofilter.

Water safety

Just get a dechlorinator from Big Al's. This is the easiest part of the hobby. You absolutely do need a test kit. Just buy a freshwater master kit.

People boil driftwood to leech out tannin and make it sink. Obviously, if it's glued to a rock, you don't have to worry about it sinking. You won't be able to leech out much tannin by just pouring boiling water on it. That's okay though, because tannin is actually beneficial for some fish, it just makes water look yellow. Note that tannin actually suppresses certain bacterial growth, so it makes fishes healthier. However, I don't know if it affects nitrification bacteria.

If you're more concerned about sterilizing the driftwood, spraying some diluted bleach on it should be much easier and safer than handling large kettles of boiling water.

CO2

Forget about separators or reactors, they're unnecessary. Do not use anything to join two or more tubes together: you will never seal the joints properly and will be leaking CO2. Just use one single tube from bottle cap to water.

Here's a secret: disposable chopsticks make GREAT diffusers! Just break a length of it off and stick it tight into the tube. You can get a packet of these for 1 or 2$ at Chinatown or any Chinese supermarket, or you can get a few for free at Chinese fast food joints or Sushi restaurants.

Plants and Fish

Don't buy these from Big Al's. They're expensive and of generally of poor quality. Get them from these forums. You'll save so much money. Don't put any shrimps in there until the tank is cycled.

If your aquarium is sitting by a window, note that you'll likely get a lot of green hair algae. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you make use of it.
 

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Most of the listed plants will grow with almost no effort, and without CO2 or special substrates. Hornwort is a floater that doesn't root and watersprite can be left to float. Both are nutrient sponges, as evidenced by their fast growth.
Whether this method slows down the establishment of the bio in the filter is not relevant, unless you plan on removing all the plants.
As far as Big Al's for plants goes, they are expensive but most of the plants are of high quality. Howver, the Tropica plants are all grown emmersed so there is an adjustment period when they are submerged.For bunch plants such as hornwort or hygro, it doesn't matter so much where you get them.
 

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Most of the listed plants will grow with almost no effort, and without CO2 or special substrates. Hornwort is a floater that doesn't root and watersprite can be left to float. Both are nutrient sponges, as evidenced by their fast growth.
I disagree. I've had hornwort in my 20 gallons with only 3 guppies, and it's had no noticeable effect on the ammonia or nitrite.

Without CO2 injection, plant growth rate will be limited by the amount of CO2 in water.

Whether this method slows down the establishment of the bio in the filter is not relevant, unless you plan on removing all the plants.
It's relevant when you want to add more bioload or when you rearrange your aquascape.
 

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your both kind of right..plant growth in non co2 tanks is limited by co2..but plants like hornwort are able to utilize caco3 as a carbon source better then other species...which explains there explosive growth in a non co2 enviroment...with growth comes nutrient demand..so yes easy to grow stem plants are enough to silent cycle but the amount of plant mass will determine how much ammonia is removed..its best to fill the aquarium with as much plants as possible for ammonia levels to remain close to zero..

When you decide to change your scape or add more fish the filter should have enough bacteria that no problems should occur...also your substrate contains the same good bacteria as your filter..substrate goes through the same nitrogen cycle...Its best to add some mulm from an established tank under your substrate to give it a jump start.

as for the dude who was wondering about diffusing...buy a cheap power head...chopsticks plug up...your using diy...so stay away or you may be cleaning up yeast..unless you change them out quite often...I tend to stay on the safe side so save your your arguments..
 

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I disagree. I've had hornwort in my 20 gallons with only 3 guppies, and it's had no noticeable effect on the ammonia or nitrite.

Without CO2 injection, plant growth rate will be limited by the amount of CO2 in water.

It's relevant when you want to add more bioload or when you rearrange your aquascape.
I'm curious how, with only 3 guppies in a 20 gallon, and plants, how you had any measurable ammonia. As well, hornwort can grow several inches per day without CO2. I don't see how rearranging your lanscaping , other than removing all the plants and rockwork, or substrate, will affect your filtering capability. Nitrifying bacteria double roughly every 8 hours (if my info is correct), so even an increase in bioload should be accomodated by a tank.
 

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I'm curious how, with only 3 guppies in a 20 gallon, and plants, how you had any measurable ammonia. As well, hornwort can grow several inches per day without CO2. I don't see how rearranging your lanscaping , other than removing all the plants and rockwork, or substrate, will affect your filtering capability. Nitrifying bacteria double roughly every 8 hours (if my info is correct), so even an increase in bioload should be accomodated by a tank.
Yes, that's what I thought at first too, but it makes sense when you think about it.

Both Ammonia and Nitrite become toxic at concentrations of 0.5 ppm. Meanwhile, Nitrates can be tolerated at concentrations of 30 to 40 ppm. So a bioload that would normally be unnoticeable in an established tank can become deadly in a tank without a working biofilter.

I don't know if you're exaggerating about the hornwort growth, but I had hornwort in my tank while it was cycling. I never saw any noticeable growth. It wasn't until I started injecting CO2 that I saw hornwort start to grow quickly.
 

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nitrates actually become toxic at 650ppm for warm water fish and around 200ppm for shrimp...ive tested this

my tanks consistently have nitrates at 40ppm...so thats wrong..I havent lost a fish for 3 years besides testing toxic ranges...

ammonia can be added as a nitrate source at about 0.8 ppm daily without any concern...try it yourself...

your hornwort might have been limited by potassium or phosphates...you can't assume lack of growth is from co2 only...
 

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nitrates actually become toxic at 650ppm for warm water fish and around 200ppm for shrimp...ive tested this

my tanks consistently have nitrates at 40ppm...so thats wrong..I havent lost a fish for 3 years besides testing toxic ranges...

ammonia can be added as a nitrate source at about 0.8 ppm daily without any concern...try it yourself...
I've had ammonia and nitrite around .5 to 1 ppm when I was cycling, and I was doing almost daily water changes. The guppies still all developed infections. One died from it, one fought it off by itself, and one I managed to cure with salt baths. So no, I wouldn't say it was "without any concern".

If you add ammonia to a cycled tank, then no, it's not as much a concern as the ammonia will be quickly converted to nitrates. However, we're talking about an uncycled tank here.

Finally, I wouldn't recommend anyone to let nitrates run over 40ppm, nevermind anywhere near 650ppm! Being able to "tolerate" high nitrate levels doesn't mean it's healthy for the fish.

http://theaquariumwiki.com/Nitrate_Poisoning
 

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you do know any one can fill out a wiki page...look at the source on that same page...notice that there isnt one...no scientific fact at all...

read this...
http://www.barrreport.com/archive/index.php/t-3267.html
The sources in the link you posted do not seem to be accessible anymore, so I did some research of my own:

http://www.crc.govt.nz/publications...ity-freshwater-aquatic-species-000609-web.pdf

On p. 31, Table A3.2, it lists the 50% mortality concentration of NO3 for guppies, by duration of exposure:

48 hours: 969 mg/L
72 hours: 881 mg/L
96 hours: 845 mg/L

Scroll down to p.41, the table lists Acute-to-Chronic Ratio (ACR), which gives the ratio to calculate highest No Observable Effect Concentration to chronic NO3 exposure. It varies, and guppies are not listed, but the geometric mean is 9.9, and we can use that to estimate.

What this means that guppies should be able to tolerate a maximum of ~85mg/L of NO3 (845/9.9). Any higher than that, and we start to see observable detrimental effects.

Keep in mind:

1- Just because a concentration is lower than the NOEC doesn't mean it has no effect on the fish's health. Reduced lifespan and a weakened immune system is not readily observable.

2- Guppies are one of the hardiest fishes in the hobby. Many other fishes are far more sensitive.
 

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You should also keep in mund that ammonia probably wasn't the exclusive factor to the demise of your guppies, but just another thing to tip them over the edge.

0.5 ppm ammonia might kill some things that are already weakened or stressed - like the common cold and the very elderly - but for most healthy fish/inverts, they should be able to weather it out for a few days at least.
 

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You should also keep in mund that ammonia probably wasn't the exclusive factor to the demise of your guppies, but just another thing to tip them over the edge.

0.5 ppm ammonia might kill some things that are already weakened or stressed - like the common cold and the very elderly - but for most healthy fish/inverts, they should be able to weather it out for a few days at least.
The problem is, most cycling lasts far longer than a few days. I think mine lasted for about 2 months.
 

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your not mentioning anything about plant uptake of ammonia which is the key to silent cycling..

Im willing to bet none of your test of ammonia are from a calibrated test kit..

A 2 month cycle?....ok..even ada soil cycles in 6 weeks or less..so your doing somthing wrong..

the info in my link is what is relevent and it works when i click on it...there is a huge difference between cold water and warm water toxicity..
Notice who posted that info...this is his credentials...
Water Treatment [13 course]: Sacramento State
BS in Aquatic Biology: University of California, Santa Barbara
MS in Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville
In Progress: Ph.D. UC Davis, Plant Sciences
Im sure his info is correct

Im not posting anything more about this so save your reply...

My co2 injected tank has nitrates at 40ppm for the last 3 years no fish loss..anything above that is not needed...Nitrates are not as evil as the "companies that sell you chemicals or filters" warn you about...thats my point...
 

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your not mentioning anything about plant uptake of ammonia which is the key to silent cycling..

Im willing to bet none of your test of ammonia are from a calibrated test kit..

A 2 month cycle?....ok..even ada soil cycles in 6 weeks or less..so your doing somthing wrong..

the info in my link is what is relevent and it works when i click on it...there is a huge difference between cold water and warm water toxicity..
Notice who posted that info...this is his credentials...
Water Treatment [13 course]: Sacramento State
BS in Aquatic Biology: University of California, Santa Barbara
MS in Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville
In Progress: Ph.D. UC Davis, Plant Sciences

Im sure his info is correct
More relevant than a New Zealand government publication? Yes, I know there's a difference between cold and warm water fish, which is why I specifically used the data entry for Guppies.

My co2 injected tank has nitrates at 40ppm for the last 3 years no fish loss..anything above that is not needed...Nitrates are not as evil as the "companies that sell you chemicals or filters" warn you about...thats my point...
40ppm NO3 is the maximum I would go, as my freshwater community tank hovers around 30-40ppm as well before scheduled water changes. However, different species have different tolerance levels for NO3. I keep my SW tank at < 10ppm NO3, and my Crystal Shrimp tank at < 20ppm NO3.
 

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Thanks for posting the link on the nitrate research article. Good stuff.
And for good measure. Here is a link debunking and explaining in real term what nitrate can do to a fish:
http://www.oscarfish.com/article-home/water/79-is-nitrate-toxic-a-study-of-nitrate-toxicity.html
It's still around the 40 ppm mark.
If I remember correctly, Tom Barrs link's was just an experiment on see now long it takes to kill the fish within 48 hours of exposure to high nitrate toxicity or something like that. It has nothing to do with the long term effect of continue exposure to high nitrate.

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