Idiot Proof Fishless Aquarium Cycling

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You may have heard the term, “fishless aquarium cycling” before, right? But if push came to shove could you explain what it is and how to accomplish it? Yeah I didn’t think so. And no harm in that. Still to help remove the mystery here’s a quick and dirty overview of fishless cycling. The best thing is no fish were harmed in the making of this video.

The ideas worth carrying away from watching this are numerous. The video starts off by explaining how to go about cycling your tank with ammonia rather than a couple “hardy” fish who likely woulnd’t think of volunteering for the task. Which is why some feel fishless cycling is a more humane way to go about it. Since oftentimes the fish prove to not be all that hardy. And either live somewhat shortened lives or outright die during the process.

Then for those unfamiliar with nitrogen cycle, there’s a nice SIMPLE graphic which explains how any fish waste products, ie poop, breaks down into ammonia aka toxic poison, which converts into nitrites (not that much less poisonous) and then relatively harmless nitrates. Once things have moved to the high nitrates level, you change out 90% of the water for fresh aged and you’re set. Your tank should now be what’s called cycled. All thanks to bacteria that have taken up residence are that are hard at work for you.

Doing this with fish can take 4 to 6 weeks. All the while the fish are being stressed out by excessive levels of ammonia which isn’t necessarily all that good for them. (Remember the role they play is to provide the waste which will be broken down by bacteria over time.) And then hit by high nitrites levels, which again isn’t a day at the beach.

Now the idea is to add enough ammonia to raise the PPM (parts per million) to between four and five. In the case of a 55 gallon tank it took five teaspoons. That’s it.

Next test your water daily watching for the ammonia levels to drop to one PPM. Now you want to test for nitrites as those levels should spike. Now add enough ammonia to bring it back to 5 PPM. Over time the good bacteria will be building up so each time thru the cycle should go faster. The idea is for the ammonia levels to drop to ZERO within 24 hours and the nitrites to do the same, then you’ve achieved a cycled tank.

Now it’s time to test for nitrates. These should be off the charts high. To fix that do a 80-90% change of the water and you’re good to go.

Three things you can do to move the process along…

  • Add some gravel from an established tank.
  • Add plants from an established tank.
  • Add a dirty (in a good way for this) filter cartridge.

Follow the process as laid out here and you might be able to complete this tank cycling within 10 to 14 days. Comparing that to doing so with fish and you can see this has the potential to be much faster.

This popular video makes it easy to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Yet if you need a bit more help, there’s a step by step tank cycling guide you can check out as well.

As you’d expect this all depends on getting the right ammonia. And for those having trouble finding appropriate ammonia this video gives you an idiot proof way to test any jug of the stuff before you buy it. To make sure you’re getting the right kind.

What To Look for When Buying the Ammonia

Okay so since not just any bottle of ammonia is suitable here’s a quick video that should help.

Takeaways from this one would be to read the label on the bottle.

  • Be sure it says 100% Ammonia.
  • Be sure it’s not scented.
  • Be sure it has no surfactants!

So why not see for yourself how to determine if a given bottle of ammonia qualifies as suitable for fishless cycling? Easy Peasy, right? Again the real trick is finding the right stuff. Now you know how.

In any case, water quality it critical to success with betta fish. And having a cycled tank is a great way to insure your fish’s water is safe and healthy. Or the ideal environment for Nemo, or Pegasus, or whatever it is you call your half moon beauty.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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