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Do I need to cycle a planted tank

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by paulsballs, 9 Jan 2017.

  1. paulsballs

    paulsballs Newly Registered

    Messages:
    3
    Hi I am totally new to aquascaping I have ordered a dennerle 60l cube full set up Wich comes with substrate and gravel lights and filter. I would like to do a low tech set up with a few shrimp just confused about cycling think maybe I have read to much info on the subject .
     
  2. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    6,248
    Hi all,
    You don't need to "cycle" the tank by adding ammonia, it doesn't serve any useful purpose and may inhibit the development of an appropriate microbial community.

    I like to plant the tank and then leave it to "grow in". Have a look at <"Oxygen levels required..."> and linked threads.

    If you have actively growing plants you have "plant/microbe filtration", which is much efficient and flexible than "microbe only" biofiltration.

    cheers Darrel
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2017
    Andy Taylor, rebel, JMorgan and 4 others like this.
  3. CaptainC

    CaptainC Member

    Messages:
    26
    Hi. Yes, the nitrogen cycle must be completed to ensure any waste products from fish or shrimp are converted into less harmful products by your filter.
    Plants can remove a little ammonia but nowhere near enough to keep water safe for your livestock.
    Please read about cycling and the nitrogen cycle.
    Enjoy your tank, scaping and feel free to ask questions.
     
  4. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    6,248
    Hi all,
    This honestly isn't true, you get it a lot in cycling posts, but you only have to look at the scientific literature for ample evidence that "plant/microbe filtration" is much more efficient than "microbe only" bio-filtration.

    A lot of people still see plants as a form of decoration, but they aren't, they are the single most important factor in biological filtration.

    There are a couple of proviso's, you need the plants to be in active growth, and bio-filtration is much more efficient if plants have <"Diana Walstad's"> "aerial advantage" of access to atmospheric gas levels.

    These are references from aquaculture, <"Nutrient removal from aquaculture wastewater using a constructed wetlands system">. <"Efficiency of aquatic macrophytes to treat Nile tilapia pond effluents">, but I have a lot more using constructed wetlands.

    There is a more complete discussion of this in <"Best way to cycle a second filter.."> (and linked threads).

    There are a number of reasons why plant microbe systems can deal with larger bioloads, but the main ones are that :
    cheers Darrel
     
  5. CaptainC

    CaptainC Member

    Messages:
    26
    Hey Darrel.
    It would be interesting to see if anyone had actually managed in the real world,, outside of scientific literature/studies, has successfully managed to cycle their tank using only plants to keep non toxic levels of ammonia/nitrite. No argument that plants help uptake ammonia etc and, create conditions in substrate that promote growth of beneficial bacteria. Surely though that process will take time, I.e. A cycle, before it can support enough bacteria to keep toxic levels low enough for livestock?
    Anyone out there done this, care to comment?
    I honestly don't think I'd be willing to allow plants alone to keep levels to non toxic levels.
    I'm certainly no scientist and have not tried this method.
    Many thanks for the information, I'll read up on the subject and see what it's all about.
     
  6. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    6,248
    Hi all,
    No, <"it isn't a theoretical idea">, we do it <"all the time">.

    I've never "cycled" a filter with ammonia, there really isn't any point. We are interested in ammonia (and to a lesser degree nitrite (NO2-)) levels, because ammonia is toxic to animals, but in terms of the maturation of the tank it is much less relevant than the levels of dissolved oxygen.
    The longer you can leave the tank planted before adding the fish the better.

    I like to leave the tanks for ~6 weeks, planted and running normally, but without any livestock, but you could potentially use a floating plant, like Pistia, and assuming you had a large enough biomass of plants, add the fish straight away.
    The problem is with the cycling concept, there isn't a switch from "not cycled and toxic" to "cycled and safe" it is a continuum based on ability to deal with bioload. In the lab. you can quantify this as the <"Biochemical Oxygen Demand"> (BOD), and as a general rule if the oxygen supply exceeds the oxygen demand your tank is fish safe.

    If I was forced to keep fish in non-planted tanks I would use a wet and dry trickle filter, because of its large gas exchange surface.
    I think a lot of people feel the same. Cycling has a huge mythology built up around it and it is very difficult to get to the truth.
    In some ways that is the point, it isn't "plants alone", it is always "plants and microbes". "Plant/microbe" filtration is potentially about an order of magnitude more efficient than "microbe only filtration".

    cheers Darrel
     
    Andy Taylor, Gill, xim and 1 other person like this.
  7. TigerBarb

    TigerBarb Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    Interesting post and something I was not aware of before. It makes a lot of sense though when you read into some of those linked posts much moreso than artificially cycling a tank which I did originally with my setup. If I do end up completely reworking my setup I would definitely try the planted method rather than doing an artificial cycle.

    I think that as helpful as enabling people with knowledge about cycling is, I remember a community I joined in with when I first got into fishkeeping and the community were very aggressive to any suggestion at all of deviation from the ammonia cycling method. Not always a good thing to be so closed minded.
     
    dw1305 and BigTom like this.
  8. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    6,248
    Hi all,
    It is just a really contentious issue, where a lot of the protagonists have entrenched positions and everybody knows that they are right.

    I started on the "cycling posts" because I wanted to tell people about the advantages of planted tanks and I really had no idea how much ill feeling that they would provoke.

    Adding ammonia is better than the "sacrificial fish" method that preceded it, but there is a still a failure (or unwillingness) to see that plants are a vital part of biological filtration, rather than tank decoration.

    Have a look at @Akwascape's <"Windowsill Nature.....">.

    cheers Darrel
     
    Last edited: 23 Jan 2017
    Gill and Tim Harrison like this.
  9. zozo

    zozo Member

    Messages:
    3,924
    I'm completely with Darrel on this one.. It beats me, what all this cycling is about.. Till now i only builded tanks with inert substrates and actualy still have to encounter my first realy dangerous Ammonia or Nitrite peak.. And after all is setup than i look whats needed and still can put it in.

    Using fertilized substrates and doing massive waterchanges to get rid of these peaks is not cycling, its depleting.. I never did it because it doesn't make so much sense to me, spend extra money to put so much extra in and then flush it out again with all the water changes. With all do respect.. Duh? Sorry?

    It takes me 6 months from scratch to fully stocked as i want it.. And that still is moderately stocked.. Why all the hurry?

    All that cycling fuss is imho a commercial make belief already roaming the hobby since the 1970's when about the first pots of freeze dried bacteria appeared on the lfs shellfs.. I used them and didn't use them and never realy saw a difference.. :)
     
    dw1305 and Tim Harrison like this.
  10. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,435
    Adding ammonia to cycle a planted tank is simply unnecessary. This is especially the case if the low energy tank has a soil substrate. The ammonia given off during mineralisation is more than adequate to cycle a filter. Mine typically cycles in a week or so.
     
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  11. Aqua360

    Aqua360 Member

    Messages:
    936
    Will probably get flamed for this, but I don't even consider "cycling" anymore, I heavily plant from the get go; and add shrimp immediately with zero casualties, even in 10 litre tanks etc.

    If doing fish I'd add slowly and only after 2-3 weeks, which is then more akin to normal cycling
     
    Gill and markk like this.
  12. JMorgan

    JMorgan Member

    Messages:
    58
    There's an interestingly eccentric but very nice bloke on You Tube called LR Bretz (Lucas) with a fish room with 100+ tanks. He's been gradually removing all his filtration (excepting airstones and circulation pumps) over the last few months having realised that given healthy plant growth, it wasn't contributing anything. Pointing out that the surface area of the substrate + plants + hardscape IS the filter so long as water is circulating properly. So check out his channel if you want to see it happening in practice dozens and dozens of times. I should maybe add that he doesn't have any real pretensions to aquascaping, he's all about keeping "eco-systems". That said I do like his "algae tank" - I suspect I might be quite good at that!
    Personally I just wait until my frogbit is spreading nicely to know I can start adding fish gradually.
     
    dw1305 likes this.
  13. sciencefiction

    sciencefiction Member

    Messages:
    2,376
    I wasn't going to post at all in this thread because I'd cause another argument. But I used to cycle tanks with ammonia, especially when I was transitioning from small to large tanks...I had no choice as I was not moving the actual filters and they weren't going to do much in a tank way larger due to the way lower flow rate....The below tank is 1 year and 10 months old on the video and was cycled with all the plants you see in the video and ammonia dosing. It took about 4 weeks to cycle at which stage I moved all the fish from my small tanks. I did not use any old media, not even a small piece...I used tetra safe start....I got no algae during cycling(which was fishless) despite blasting the lights 8 hrs a day, and all the fish apart from the guppies, which lived their lives in there, were still alive when the tank broke 5 and a half years after set up. I never had a sick fish or issues with fish although I fully stocked the tank a month after set up....So waiting 6 months to fully stock a planted tank.....is just not feasible...



    As some mentioned, if the tank has source of ammonia such as soil, there's absolutely no reason to dose ammonia. Having said that, I cycled my other 5 foot tank at the time with ammonia again first for a few weeks, then added the soil and plants... I had 0 spikes from get go. The only large tank I haven't cycled with ammonia so far is my latest pond to which I transferred all external, already cycled filters...And I still got fish scraping themselves being irritated by possibly mini ammonia/nitrite issues for the first few weeks though I never changed the bioload, just the size of the tank...

    I am not saying you can't cycle a tank with just plants and slowly adding fish but its a choice, not a necessity and there's absolutely no negative effects to fish by cycling a tank fishlessly with ammonia, then adding fish. I have not tried the "slow planted method" so you can tell me the effect of putting fish in an uncycled, planted tank....
     
    Last edited: 24 Jan 2017
  14. sciencefiction

    sciencefiction Member

    Messages:
    2,376
    To answer your original question, yes you do need to cycle the tank, whichever way suits you or you understand better. If the tank has an initial source of ammonia such as that from soil substrates, let it run for several weeks just with plants, giving you time to aquascape it the way you want...If its an inert substrate tank, you've got to wait a long, long time for a sufficient cycle to go through due to lack of ammonia....unless your plants start rapidly melting giving off something for the bacteria to work on....In this case you can try the method of slowly adding bioload over the course of weeks, months..

    If its a shrimp only tank, do not feed for a long time or you'll cause a spike(its the food that puts pressure on the bioload), then slowly start dropping some food every so often..When I added cherry shrimp to immature uncycled tank they stood still and were quite inactive..I could barely measure any ammonia but there was some lingering according to the test, enough to stress inverts..Having said that, I've had less issues adding shrimp to an uncycled tank than fish..Cherry shrimp in my opinion manage to survive a lot harsher conditions than any fish...I've come to this conclusion after sticking cherry shrimp in all sorts of bowls....So shrimp would not be my measure of planted tank being safe for inhabitants from the get go...The trick with uncycled shrimp tank is not to feed it at the start(providing the tank is well planted)....But if you want healthy shrimp....they need to be fed varied diet. If you want them to multiply a lot, they need to be fed daily...
     
  15. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    4,435
    Haha...come on guys, you know there's always room on UKAPS for everyones opinion especially two well respected members like you both:rolleyes:

    That's the way I've been doing it for nigh on 40 years; I was precocious, I started very young;)

    We forgive you:)
     
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  16. sciencefiction

    sciencefiction Member

    Messages:
    2,376
    Ha, ha. The irony is I'd still do it, only that I ran out of ammonia :) If I ever set up another large tank, additional to what I have I am sure I'll be going for a bottle of ammonia first :) The point is, I know exactly what it takes and how long it takes to cycle a tank fishlessly with ammonia, and that it will take the full bioload at once.... but I have no patience adding fish one by one over the course of weeks or months...it also increases the chances of introducing contagious fish diseases because there's bound to be one that is not healthy, after taking the risk of introducing different batches of fish from possibly different sources :)
     
    Tim Harrison likes this.
  17. roadmaster

    roadmaster Member

    Messages:
    1,231
    "Silent cycling" with plants in enhanced substrate or inert, combined with possibly borrowed filter media from existing tanks , is how I roll.
    If one already has an established ,mature tank, it makes next to no sense to start fishless cycling with ammonia.IMHO
    No need to add fish one by one over week's month's with moderate to heavy plant mass and or seed material from already mature filter/tank.
     
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  18. sciencefiction

    sciencefiction Member

    Messages:
    2,376
    I agree roadmaster. Bu have you tried adding 50 fish in a tank with media borrowed from a smaller, although cycled, tank? Or add 8-10 mature clown loaches to a large uncycled tank with a piece of media from your 30 gallon tank? Plant mass needs weeks to pick up and grow, so planted or not planted, cycled with ammonia, or not, one should wait weeks before adding critters...I just ensure I can add all fish at once...Plants take a few weeks to establish and start actively growing, before that they do nothing but pollute the tank...and that's providing that you do manage to get them grow fine soon enough...In this case this forum would not exist...
     
  19. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    6,248
    Hi all,
    This is really down to probability. I know that you can "cycle" your tanks using added ammonia without any problem at all, in fact people who keep tanks without plants, or substrate, are obliged to use this method, because they are entirely reliant on the nitrifying micro-organisms in their filter.

    My point would be that keeping tanks without plants and substrate is an inherently unsafe method of keeping fish, because you have a single point of failure, the filter. You can mitigate for this, to some degree, by having a wet and dry trickle filter, but even then, as soon as the tank water stops entering the filter you have a positive feedback loop of declining oxygen levels and rising ammonia levels, and fish death becomes inevitable.
    This isn't strictly right. The problem is that it starts from the premise of a linear progression:

    ammonia > nitrifying bacteria > cycle.

    But we know that isn't true in the planted tank, it isn't a linear process, but a much more complex web of interactions including: plants, bacteria, archaea, oxygen and ammonia.
    If you have a floating, or emergent, plants they aren't CO2 or oxygen limited, and they can very efficiently convert ammonia into plant tissue from the moment they are added to the tank. The capability of plants to assimilate fixed nitrogen is hugely under-estimated by most aquarists.

    Plants are net oxygen producers, they take up NH4+, NO2- and NO3- and they produce a complex rhizosphere within the substrate. It is the plants and oxygen, and the micro-organism assemblages that they help foster, that are really important, not the level of ammonia.

    As soon as your tank is planted it is an "ecosystem" and for ecosystems complexity builds resilience.

    cheers Darrel
     
    Aqua360 and EdwinK like this.
  20. roadmaster

    roadmaster Member

    Messages:
    1,231
    Yes,I have moved whole tanks of fish from smaller mature tanks to larger "uncycled tanks" with media from established filter ,or sponge filter,or bag of ceramic media that has been in donor tank for a few week's.
    Have also moved whole large population's from existing larger tanks to brand new tanks same or larger in size.
    Water change may be needed twice a week(or not per volume of water), until bacteria can re-produce but this does not take week's/month's but hour's with borrowed media.
    Only initial bacteria population that takes more time to develop.
    I am sorry your plant's take week's to begin growing ,but maybe this is more an issue with gardening/plant selection /method chosen for growing the weed's.
    Maybe too much ammonia is detrimental to plant's as well as bacteria that we try to cultivate.?
     

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