Tetras Can Help Cycle Your Tank

These little fish are able to withstand different water types.

Cycle Babble

I'm a fairly new aquarist, and I'm having a problem with one of my freshwater tanks. It is a 20-gallon setup filtered by a Penguin 170 filter with a biowheel. The tank contains no live plants. The problem is that the tank has not cycled after six weeks.

I'm certain I caused the problem by putting too great a bioload on the system too soon. Within a week of setting up the tank, I added three platys, six neon tetras, one tri-color shark, two clown loaches and one tiny pleco. The ammonia consistently measures within the 6 ppm range and the nitrites are zero. I've dosed the biowheel with Cycle several times but with no change. Recently, I purchased a 10-gallon tank and moved the platys and the shark out of the B0|galHn tank to lessen the bioload. I also performed a 50 percent water cMnge and again dosed the biowheel with Cycle.

During th^^mefeeding^as been minimal with no more than two flakes per fish per day. The fish seem to be healthy, yet the ammonia is registering 6 ppm again.

What can I do to help my tank cycle? It is too bad I can't buy "live el." When I set up my 40-gallon rine tank the live rock and crushed coral cycled it instantly.

—Joseph Rizkallah

Yes, you are correct in that your problem became apparentkhej yo^ added too many fish within the first week. Even under ideal cUdlPmSjit can take six to eight weeks for a tank to cyclB as you slowly add fish. Of course, this time frame can be reduced by using "starter" products or gravel from an established tank.

Some products on the market are not going to be of much assistance in this matter, as some do not contain live bacteria cultures. I have heard excellent remarks from many hobby

Tetras like these serpaes (Hyphessobrycon serpae) are good, hardy fish to start cycling a tank with.

ists about Marc Weiss' Bacter-Vital.

Years ago an article appeared in FAMA where the author tested numerous bacterial starter solutions on the market. What I remember is that some of the starter solutions, especially those that contained live cultures of nitrifying bacteria, accelerated the cycling process. There were other solutions out then that did not contain live bacterial cultures. And these had virtually no affect on the cycling process.

If you decide to use a bacterial starter solution, I suggest using a product that contains live bacteria rather than freeze-dried bacteria, which usually remains dormant. Likewise, avoid products in non-resealable containers that allow bacteria to degrade once opened.

I haven't used any of the "rapid starter" solutions. For the past 32 years of keeping fish, I have always used the simple method of placing several tetras in the tank to start the cycling process. After these fish are placed in the tank, I closely monitor the water parameters, and as long as the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels are kept in check, I slowly add a few fish every week. This method has never failed me.

In the past, I used platys or other poeciliids, but they tend to be more sensitive than tetras. Once or twice when I needed to speed up the process, I obtained a small scoop of gravel (which contains some of the nitrifying bacteria) from an established tank and placed it in the gravel or filter of the newly set up tank.

Be sure to use a good water conditioner. Conditioners provide many functions, including removing or neutralizing chlorine and chloramines, neutralizing heavy metals, stimulating the protective slim coating on fish, providing electrolytes and buffering the water's pH. I would also advise

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