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Traditionally, when setting up a new aquarium the fishkeeper buys some cheap, hardy fish, such as zebra danios and adds them to the tank. The purpose of these fish is to provide ammonia through the fishes respiration, waste and the decay of food. The ammonia in the tank helps create a colony of nitrifying bacteria (the good bacteria) and starts the initial cycling of the tank.

Sometimes these starter fish will live through the process, but many times some will die. Those that do survive usually do not live up to their full potential. Because of this many people feel that the traditional method of cycling a new aquarium is not very humane.

Another way to get started has begun to gain acceptance. Instead of relying on the starter fish to provide the ammonia necessary to begin the cycle you can add per ammonia to the tank. When selecting your ammonia make sure that it is pure ammonia, with no additives or perfumes. These chemicals will linger in your tank and kill your aquatic pets.

The process is relatively simple. When setting up the tank add 5 drops of ammonia for every 10 gallons of water added to the tank. Every day add another 5 drops of ammonia until nitrites rise to a measurable limit. At this point you begin adding 3 drops of ammonia per 10 gallons on a daily basis. Continue to do this until nitrates are measurable in your aquarium. When ammonia and nitrites are both reduced to 0 ppm you can add fish to the aquarium.

This method actually reduces the time required to complete the initial cycling of the tank. Using the traditional method you can expect to wait 30-45 days to complete the cycle. Using this method you should be set in 2-3 weeks and sometimes the cycle is complete within 7 days.
 

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I actually started by putting in a capful (5ml) every other day and taking nitrate and nitrite readings every day. I have put in 4 doses of pure ammonia so far and nitrites are about 3-4ppm and nitrates 20ppm. When do I stop adding ammonia? Should I back off the # of doses or amounts?

Sorry, I did'nt see your post until now.
 

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You cannot stop the ammonia until you are through with the cycle although the method I used said you cut the ammonia amounts in half when the nitrites appeared. Then when the nitrates appear and you get a 0 on the ammonia, and 0 on the nitrites after 24 hours from when you added the ammonia, you do a 50% water change and can add fish. Don't do that until you have fish ready to add though as until there are fish in the tank to keep the cycle going with the ammonia they put out, you will need to keep feeding it with the pure ammonia.

So 24 hours after adding a dose of pure ammonia:
0 ammonia
0 nitrites
the presence of nitrates
and
Do 50% water change before adding fish.

Then the fish begin to supply the ammonia to keep it going, but be sure not to add too many fish to begin with or you will kill your cycle. 1 or 2 small fish to start and you can add a couple more in a week and in 3 weeks or so if the ammonia and nitrites are still 0 you can add your tank of fish 3 or 4 at a time. Control the nitrates with water changes or the best way, IMHO, is to control nitrates with live plants as well as water changes.

I actually had a very small tank with a small filter cycle in 4 days for a soft cycle and since I was only going to have one fish in there I was able to allow it to finish establishing itself with the fish in the tank with no problem but I had also given it a starter of established gravel in a sock.
 

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This is a very humane way to cycle at ank and I have used it in the past myself, however the hard part is find pure ammonia, with out any additives.....I found mine a ACE Hardware. I just mention this because that seems to be the question that I have been asked more often than any other when talking about fishless cycle. Also, I read on another forum site, that I guy in AU use his urine, don't know if that was true but he swears he did it that way......... to each him own I guess
 

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This is a very humane way to cycle at ank and I have used it in the past myself, however the hard part is find pure ammonia, with out any additives.....I found mine a ACE Hardware. I just mention this because that seems to be the question that I have been asked more often than any other when talking about fishless cycle. Also, I read on another forum site, that I guy in AU use his urine, don't know if that was true but he swears he did it that way......... to each him own I guess
Both sides of the argument can be backed up with facts. Here are the facts on the pros and cons list.

Reasons why you could use urine to start your nitrogen cycle:
1. Ammonia in urine (in dog urine at least, which was the only one I could find using google) is 200 ppm. The goal in cycling your tank is to make it 2.0 ppm to start the cycling process. So, technically, there is enough ammonia in urine to start the cycle.
2. Urine is free and available everywhere. '
3. No fish necessary.

Reasons against using your own urine to start your nitrogen cycle:
1. Urine is sterile, so it doesn't have any 'bacteria' in it to help the cycle. That is not a reason to use your own urine.
2. Urine contains other wastes that you do not want in your fish tank.
3. Ammonia is readily available at supermarkets and pet stores, and is inexpensive. There's no reason to go around using urine (which has wastes in it) when you can just use pure ammonia.
4. Using pure ammonia from a store, no fish are necessary. You can even fish-less cycle with fish flakes, in fact.
5. Urine is gross. Putting it in your fish tank is gross. It will be yellow. It will smell bad. You'll need to clean your tank. The social stigma against using urine for anything is strong. Also, using ammonia is easy and cheap. Why use urine when you can use pure ammonia?

So don't use urine to cycle your fish tank. It's a bad idea because there are wastes in your urine that you don't want in your aquarium, and you don't need urine because pure ammonia is out there and it works better. Please don't pee in your fishtank. But if you do you might want to condition yourself first.:)
 

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yep...i am the guy that used human urine to cycle a tank.it worked perfectly..i did it awhile ago just as an experiment.at the same time i also did the ammonia cycling too.it also worked.nothing new about ammonia cycling;been around for many many decades.
i don't tell folks to do what i do;because i never do anything by the books.my tanks are overstocked and overfed.i never cycle.i may tear down 4-8 tanks at a time.i will pull the fish;drain the tank and scrub it out.then refill it add dechlorinating agent and put the fish back in.
fish exporters,importers,wholesalers and retailers do not do fishless cycling.breeders do not do fishless cycling.fishless cycling is left for hobbyists to do.for anyone in a more commercial area it is just not economically feasable.
hmmm..i guess you could say that urine is gross and it smells bad..but does anyone really think that ammonia smells any nicer...lol....and it is possible in an emergency situation for one to drink their urine..but certainly not ammonia.
 

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You can also use cooked prawns to provide a source of ammonia as it decays. I haven't cycled a tank in 25 years though. I just used filter media from another tank, or let the new filter run for a couple of weeks on a cycled tank.
Adding lots of plants (like 75%) at a minimum you can start adding fish slowly right away. Called a silent cycle. That is the method I use I use the most since I have an over abundance of plants.

Also on saltwater tanks, using a cooked prawn would help in cycling it.
 

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You can go the fish food method and the raw fish method too but they take a LONG time to do as the first step is for the ammonia to be produced from them. The ammonia method is quicker and for the main advantage in my opinion cleaner. You do not have rotten fish food or fish to remove later. The smell is not as bad as all that as you do not use that much. When I did it you put 10 drops in a tank for each 5 gallons of tank size until the nitrites start to show up and then you cut it down to 5 drops per 5 gallons until the nitrates formed and the ammonia and nitrites were returning to 0 after 24 hours. Then you stop the ammonia, do a 50% water change and do not vacuum the gravel. Be prepared at this time to add a couple of small fish and thereafter you can add two or three small fish every other week for 4 weeks (2 more additions) and then you are free to add the rest if your tank will support more. Just be sure not to overload the tank as no cycle will support more than the tank should for capacity with no problems.

You may not like to live by any rules but the fish are not doing as well as they could in a tank where they are not overcrowded. Extra water changes and tank cleanings can make a difference but why have fish and then crowd them to the point of not being able to keep them happy where they are? The difference in their behavior may astound you. They are your fish and you may do as you wish and I wish you well.
 

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I was told by an employee at petco that you can just add food to the water like if you had fish in it.Said the decaying food would generate the ammonia.Told me to do this for 2 weeks then do a 10% water change keep adding the food then wait another week and run water tests?
 

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The only problem I had with the fish food method is that it is very messy and you have all the rotting fish food or rotting fish or shrimp (if you use that method) to remove and the tank to clean thoroughly before adding the fish. With the ammonia method your tank is pristine other than needing a 50% water change with treated water to freshen the water. That is all I did. But I use Bio-Spira or TurboStart 700 almost exclusively now. It is expensive but failproof totally.

Rose
 
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