Now I'm really confused

foxykitten350234(z6)December 30, 2005

I have been reading about cycling a tank and now I think I understand this process even less then I did before reading. If I'm understanding this all correctly you need fish to produce waste in order for a tank to cycle, but the amonia spike will kill the fish. There are products to use to cycle a tank without fish, but some people say they are useless. I'm also reading that the bacteria developes on the filter cartridge (is that the right term?). My tank has a filter cartridge that is one piece and it recomends changing every month. Wouldn't that undo all of the bacteria growth from cycling? Some people say you can keep a Betta in a tank while it is cycling others say you shouldn't.

To further add to my confusion I have known people to just set up tanks, stock them with fish and happily proceed without problems. I have witnessed this practice with many different fresh water fish from tetras to piranha. Could these people have been doing something I didn't know about or were they just lucky?

I honestly reaserched setting up and stocking a 5 gal tank. I thought I had a clue about what I was doing before getting the fish. I even read the manual for setting up and stocking the tank. Why don't these company's tell a person what they need to know.

Since I have just now discovered that I should have cycled my 5 gal tank and I'm totaly lost on how to proceed I would appreciate suggestions. I have a 5 gal hex tank with a top-mounted filter. In the tank I have 1 female Betta and 2 red tailed sharks. I know 2 sharks was not the brightest move and I'm working on fixing that situation also. TIA for any words of wisdom.


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In my opinion, learn about the cycling, but don't sweat it in your particular case at this point in time - not much to do about it. Personally, I've never had any issues with bettas in large tanks and not cycling them at first (5 gallons is a dream for a betta!)

Definitely rethink those red-tailed sharks. They can get a bit aggressive - and also large. Three cory cats would do nicely with the betta if you want some fish for company.

The good bacteria will also establish itself in the gravel in the tank - hence if you do change your filter, there will still be bacteria present. It will also establish itself in the filter itself.

What's really nice about the filters with biowheels is the bacteria establishes itself in the wheel along with the filter. So you don't have to worry about this sort of concern.

Anyway - with filters, I rarely change completely as recommended. I _do_ rinse the filter. And the best way to do this and keep the bacteria in the filter sponge is to rinse it in water you're changing out. In other words, use the water you're taking out of the tank - swish your filter pad in this water to rinse out, and then just place the filter back in place. What usually kills bacteria in the filter when you rinse it under the faucet is the chlorine in tap water.

You CAN set fish up in a clean tank (not cycled) if you do it slowly and choose hardy fish like danios. Essentially you start off with danios, they produce waste, they can weather the cycling stage of the tank (ammonia spike and all) and then you can slowly introduce new fish to the tank. What you never want to do is to put a huge fishload into a clean tank - no matter how large the tank might be. You'll just see a lot of fish barely thriving, then eventually dying. Those with the strongest constitutions may live through it - but you do waste a lot of money on replacing fish that way.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 6:48AM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

Considering you are in PA, unless the bulb from your lighting is warming the water, the Temperature may drop after a while. Possiblely the next cold spell. A heater will maintain the temperature. The problem with the 3 fish, sharks or not, is that the volume of water (your case 5G) will be hard to maintain at a "safe" level of ammonia in the coming weeks. When cycling with fish try not to spike the ammonia over 1ppm, but keep it around 1ppm. While no detectable level o ammonia is "safe" we have established it necessary to have the ammonia source for the 1st phase of the cycle. Usually somewhere at the 2 week mark ammonia spikes high. A reccomended "safe" fish load for cycling is 1" of fish per 5G, you have 3 times that. After establishment, nitrification cycling, rule of thumb is 1" fish per gallon (of course there are exceptions with larger fish, flat shaped fish etc.etc. etc.). I agree that since you allready have fish, go ahead with the cycle with fish. The store bought products like "Cycle" are useless and can sometimes create more trouble than they help. If this aquarium has an incadescent bulb replace it with a compact flourescent, they are sold even in the fish Dept at Wal-Mart for about $5. They run at lower wattage and therefore throw less heat. Try to keep the temperature consistant. Use the lighting 8 Hours or less unless you have live plants. Feed the fish the minimum at first to keep ammonia levels low. Less food = less poop = less ammonia, also less uneaten food = less rotting food=less ammonia. I still think that it will be a hell of alot easier to manage the 5Gwith 1 fish. Finrot, ammonia poisoning, and other diseases happen quickly before showing symtoms. IMO if you keep your current fishload in the 5G one if not all will die or get ill trying to establish the cycle. As far as convincing your husband to get the larger setup, if he doesn't like the idea at first, usually a purchase from Victoria's Secret and a little suprise will solve it. Well it makes me cave 100% of the time.

Here is a link that might be useful: cycling info

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 12:07PM
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james_ny(z7 NY)

Cycling is not that big a deal. Use hardy/inexpensive fish [mollies, swords, plattys] to cycle the tank, in most cases they survive. Many times the tank will have an alge bloom [new water high in neutrients], don't be discouraged, this will pass. If you already have fish in your tank don't worry the'll probably be OK. You should monitor water parameters carefully until the tank cycles [Ammo and nitrite will go up, peak then fall to zero]. This could take from 1 to 7 weeks in my experience [bigger the tank the longer it takes, my 240gal SW took 7 weeks]. After cycling check the ph and ammo once a month and do regular water changes, adjust amount/frequency of water change if parameters aren't stable. Overfeeding, and lack of proper maintenance [water change and filter cleaning] are prime reasons for failure. Also be careful when adding new fish, make sure there in the store for at least a week and look OK.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 12:16PM
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Thank you all for the replys.

Yes, I am rethinking the red tail sharks. The bullying seems to have calmed way down at this time, but I now know this is not the best set up for these two sharks. I think Miss Betta has been policing the The 5 gal seems to make Miss Betta very happy. She is one spunky happy friendly fish who enjoys playing in the currant from the filter and playing with her tank mates. Thanks for the recomendation for fish that will do well with her in her tank. I'm glad to hear bacteria will establish on the biowheel and the gravel. I will swish the filter instead of replacing all the time. How often should I replace the filter if I'm doing the swishing cleaning? I am lucky that I'm on a well so I don't have to worry about a ton of water treatment chemicals.

I spent some time in the fish department today. I looked at heaters and all I saw for a 5 gal tank was a 7.5 watt (if I'm remembering this correct). I didn't get it, because I remember reading somewhere on here that a 25 watt heater should be used for a 5 gal I getting this right? Should I go back and get the 7.5 or keep looking for the 25? I did pick up a better thermometer (one that goes in the tank vs the stick on kind). so I can keep a close eye on the temp until I get a proper heater. At this time I think it is the light that is keeping the tank warm. When I get a heater situation worked out I will switch to the compact flourescent bulb.

How do I keep the amonia down? I saw products to reduce the amonia, but I figured I better check here before messing with them. How often should I be doing water changes during the cycling phase? How much water should I be changing out each time? I looked for a test kit and discovered the store I was at didn't have any so tomorrow I will be taking a trip to another store. Is there any particular test kit you all recomend?

So far we have been feeding sparingly. The fish eat everything we put in the tank in a short amount of least I knew enough to not over feed them:)

Hmmm...the Victoria's secret idea is I guess it is time to whip out the catalougs and see if I can find something he hasn't already seen me in:)


    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 4:53PM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

25 watts per 5 gallons is reccomended. Get one that has a control knob. The 7.5 says it is good up to 5 gallons and may be. But I don't think they have an adjustment on them. If a heater is overworked it will have a greater possibility to fail or worse over heat the aquarium. A 25 watt with an adjustment knob is the way to go. I like the freshwater master test kit by aquarium pharmaceuticals. I prefer the reagent type vs. multi test strips. In the long run the set is less expensive. The color cards are easier to read then some others, IMO. It has the vital tests you need pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. The strips ammonia test are sometimes skewed and are not accurate in some instances. It's like a Jr High chemistry set. You can get a small bottle of Prime by seachem or amquel+ ( I use prime, again a price thing you need less to treat more then amquel+, so it goes a long way) even though this is mainly for dechlorination it also removes ammonia and other crap. It can be double dosed to keep very high ammonia in check. Zeolite also helps. Usually just frequent water changes will dilute the water. If you read any of the bio-chemistry articles in the link I gave you you can see how pH plays a factor in the toxicity of ammonia and nitrites. Having well water is nice but you "could" have other issues to contend with. One major factor is pH, not so much for type of fish but it can really mess with establishing a nitrogen cycle. Water parameters will determine What% water to change and how often. After it is established, for regular maintainance IME with smaller aquariums I have found it better to do a smaller% more often, rule of thumb is 25% every 2 weeks minimally. If you have a Bio-wheel then you can change the cartridge part as the directions for it state. If you want to save a little$, make a slit in the blue fiber and dump out the activated carbon and replace it with new from a bulk container. I never had a problem in the past ( when I was a kid) establishing an aquarium. When I decided to start it up again (after 20 yrs.) I had alot of trouble. The city supplied water in the town I grew up in was pretty good quality and all I did was keep buckets of tap water on hand for water changes. I only had one test kit, pH, the litmus(sp?) paper. When that ran out I never replaced it. The only difference was water chemistry everything else I did was identical. The things I am mentioning are not gospel as the only way to do this. However, down the road when you may want to try different fish, live plants etc. it really helps to know how your system works and what is needed to maintain it. The only time I test the water now is if I suspect a problem or it has been a while since the last test. I always test new aquariums until I'm satisfied that they are OK. If Victoria's doesn't have what you need maybe Fredrick's ?? Also, don't get me wrong, I support independent fish stores but the link below can help for some of the things you may need that they can't order for you. Just click on the fish when you get there.

Here is a link that might be useful: The good Dr.'s

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 8:51PM
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Thank you, woeisme!

I think I'm getting a clearer picture of cycling. I don't dare say that I understand it Yes, the 7.5 heater didn't have an adjustment on it! Looks like I do have a clue about heaters and just needed confirmation that I was on the right track.

I like the idea of changing the charcoal in my filter. For some reason I'm not too thrilled with the idea of changing the filter and charcoal all at the same time and so often. I feel like that is too much change all at once for such a small enviroment as a 5 gal tank.

Thanks for all the advise on what products and test kits to look for. I was lucky enough to find a nice indipendent fish store around here that carries a decent selection of fish care products.

Fredrick's DH isn't a fan of their stuff. I can always run over to the Victoria's store in York to see if they have anything new. Who knows I may find a nice fish store while I'm over


    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 1:48PM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

Good deal, always support your locals if you can. Sometimes its tough because they have a hard time competing with the big boy's who can buy in bulk.York isn't that far from me. I'm about 1 hour and 15 down 78, just inside the NJ state line. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 5:07PM
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I always try to support the small businesses. I was once a small business owner myself and know what it is like trying to hold my own against chain stores.

I'm in Gettysburg so York is about 1/2 hour from here...unless it is tourist season then it could take over an hour to get


    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 2:19AM
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imaginators(z6 KY)

Thank God for the test kits with the colors of what is moderate, safe and dangerous. If i had to remember the exact numbers for everything I would be in trouble. I bet you are thinking I am a dumb beginner. No I am not, but I am grateful for anything that is easy to read and get me where I want to go fast and tell me what I need to do with specific instructions and why I am doing it.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2006 at 10:25PM
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The small pet store businesses that sell fishes will always prevail over big stores like WalMart and PetsMart. Why? The smaller stores tend to have owners or workers that know more about fishes and products for the fishes and water. As for WalMart, they would not ask the associate for their knowledge in fishes. I work at WalMart and they assigned me to the Pets department, because they know that I love pets. I accepted. They did not ask me if I know anything about Fishes. Do not worry! I do know about fishes and I am glad to work there and I enjoy educating people. I most often have to refer people to PetsMart or other smaller stores that I know of, because WalMart does not carry wide selections of fishes and they do not carry the products that I highly recommend to customers. PetsMart is okay and they have more selections of fishes, but the workers may not always know everything. You can get lucky! PetsMart has a much better selection of products. There is this one PetsMart that I always go to and I an not happy with one thing. The store carries the Netural Regulator (green bottle) in different sizes of liquid and powder. They did not have the Discus Buffer (blue bottle). I was furious. I told the manager to eliminate the sales of the liquid Netural Regulator and start selling the powder Discus Buffer. In my experience, the powder is the best. When I add water, I put in one scoop of each to the gallon jug and shake them up then pour them into the tank. Works wonderful! The smaller businesses tend to carry these for sale and many other important products that seriously works. Also, going to small stores that sell fishes is highly recommended, because they tend to have more knowledges of fishes and everything.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 7:49PM
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