Choosing the Best Method for Tank Cycling

Choosing the Best Method for Tank Cycling

Q: SM wrote,

I have a question about my tank…I told you in the other email
what I have in my tank. I just want to be assured that when I add all
the fish, I cannot change the tank,until I meausre the water and the
ammonia is really up , then the bacteria starts? Is that how it works?
I just have the filter..so.. I am going to buy a water conditioner but
will I really need that?

Can my betta eat crickets?

A: Well, the answer depends on how you are cycling. There are two methods to cycle a tank. You can cycle it WITH fish or WITHOUT fish. Cycling it with fish means the ammonia is generated from fish urine and waste and will build up over time. This method exposes the fish to ammonia and nitrite, which is extraordinarily toxic to them and frequently leads to severe illness, irreversible gill damage or even death. People who cycle with fish don’t generally cycle with the fish they intend to keep in the tank. There is little point in spending money on nice fish that will suffer from their own ammonia poisoning. They usually buy a few inexpensive cycle fish like Danios.

A lot of people still cycle this way but this method is antiquated and inferior to the Fishless Cycling Method that is becoming the standard for tank cycling. These days aquarists tend to be a little more conscientious and prefer to spare the lives of all fish, even spazzy little Danios. In fishless cycling we add ammonia from a bottle rather than from fish waste. Ammonia by the bottle is so cheap that it’s even more affordable then buying a few cycle fish. When you fishless cycle you add ammonia to the tank each day until the process is complete (meaning the bacteria are consuming ammonia and nitrite as fast as it’s being added) and the fish aren’t added to the tank until the entire process is complete. More info on starting the fishless cycling method can be found here: The Fishless Cycling Method Just a note, the air stone is optional if you have a HOB (Hang on Back) filter. It’ll create enough oxygen for the bacteria.

In either method you will know the process is complete because the ammonia will spike and begin to fall, as the nitrite spikes and begins to fall, followed by nitrates beginning to build. When you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and detectable nitrate the process is finished and the fish can be added.

If you plan to cycle your aquarium with the fish you have (not cycle fish) then you will need to take special precautions. You will have to carefully monitor the ammonia every day and make partial water changes to keep it from getting too high. (keep it under 1.0 ppm) Adding a water conditioner will be necessary for two reasons. First, you will need it to neutralize any chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals from the tap water. Secondly, choosing a water conditioner that binds ammonia will help you keep your fish safe. AmQuel+ and NovAqua, for example, will convert dangerous ammonia into non-toxic ammonium. Ammonium won’t hurt the fish but will still be used for consumption by the good bacteria. The only problem with binding the ammonia is it may not appear on your ammonia test kit. This means the tank might be cycling but you won’t see it on the tester until nitrites begin to spike. Also, remember that any ammonia is severely toxic so even .5 ppm or 1.0 ppm is dangerous and your fish may become severely stressed or fall ill. If you pH is alkaline (above 7.0) ammonia becomes even more toxic. Cycling with the fish you intend to keep isn’t great but a lot of people do it without even realizing it because they don’t understand the process. By understanding the process you will be at a great advantage.

As for crickets, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a Betta is egotistical enough to try and conquer eating one but they probably aren’t the best bet. A whole cricket is much too big for a betta and most probably wouldn’t even recognize it as food. If you ground it up, they may try to eat it. Still, I’d recommend something closer to a Betta’s natural diet of small insect larvae and worms. There are a ton of good Betta food choices out there. Visit Feeding Bettas.

Betta Tank by Katie@!

Betta Tank Photo by Katie@!

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Christie F is a Betta splendens hobbyist that enjoys spending time caring for her fish and helping new betta keepers learn the ropes. More posts by:

2 Comments for this entry

  1. Narrowgate says:

    I appreciate the info but am still unsure of what to DO…step by step how do I cycle the tank and take the chemical readings? Right now, I siphon 10% of the water out a day (getting the waste out at the bottom) and put in fresh treated water that has been standing for 24 hrs.
    Would you call that cycling?

  2. Hippy says:

    Cycling is leaving the waste in the bottom, think of your tank like a lil swamp, you want it to build up some grub (bacteria & amonia{fish poop}…lol)

    If you keep it really clean with tap water or distilled water, all the good stuff gets killed, and even letting tap water sit out for 24-48 hours before putting in tank helps, it still can’t keep your beat healthy, every beta I have raised has lived 4-5 years and one lived over 5 years, I don’t clean the tank and just add water as it evaporates, no heaters, fish need to regulate their body temperatures all the time to changing water temps in their environments, so no heaters, no filters for betas, it takes away the good bacteria, just use an air pump above 2-3 inches on bottom of tank, this will create a small current that will always be in your bettas live making it exercise to stay in its favorite spot, I have a shot glass on bottom of tank upside down, so he can sit on it and a floating plastic plant that he will rest on and sleep, and he also will wedge himself on the wall between the air hose so his face is facing the current. Copy me with one betta in your life time and see how they will live 4-5 years easily, I get compliments all the time and Fred the Fish….is his name, will be passing away soon, he is just under or over 5 years now, their spines will start to get scoliosis and curl when over 5 years or just around 5

    Be Happy Observing these lil guys grow :)

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