Tips For Cycling a Tank Quickly without Fish

BradVol

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I read all the articles on here and elsewhere about fishless cycling and I'd done it with ammonia before on freshwater tanks. I still had a lot of questions and there were things not explained elsewhere that led my cycle to stall and take a lot longer than it could've. I figured I would share what I learned here and maybe it will help others. This info is not my mine, but is peer-reviewed science and at the bottom I'll put the 35 minute lecture you can watch if you want more info.

Here are the main points:
  • Use low salinity around 18-20 ppt (1.015sg)
    • Nitrifying bacteria survive from 10-40 but thrive at lower salinity levels.
    • At higher levels they put more effort into maintaining cell structure and reproduce much more slowly.
    • Gradually increase salinity to desired level over 2-3 days once the cycle is complete.
  • Keep Ammonia and Nitrite under 5 ppm at all times
    • You can use ammonia, shrimp, or bacteria in a bottle. Only dose to 4ppm.
    • If you use Live Sand, test before adding any additional ammonia. Decaying organics may provide all the ammonia needed.
    • If you use Ammonia make sure it has no scents and surfactants. Make sure you know the dilution so you can calculate how much to use.
    • Test often. Nitrite is the most important one to test.
    • Above 5 ppm the bacteria that process Nitrite stall. This is the reason most cyclings take longer than they could.
    • Do water changes as needed to keep levels in check.
    • You DO NOT need to keep feeding ammonia after it's processed it. The bacteria will not starve. You only add to the nitrite issue by continuing to dose.
    • Don't disrupt your substrate during water changes.
  • Eliminate Competition
    • Don't run items to remove Phosphate, Nitrate, or other micro nutrients from the water (GFO reactor, Chaeto reactor, Nitrate pads, etc).
    • Leave the lights off. They encourage algae which compete with the good bacteria.
    • Wait until the system is established to run these systems.
  • Provide media with a lot of surface area
    • Substrate is great. Bare Bottom tanks will be very slow.
    • Engineered items like blocks, balls, etc don't have much surface area relative to size and aren't great.
    • Some form of media is needed to successfully cycle.
  • Raise the temperature
    • Raise the tank temperature to 84-85.
    • Bacteria reproduce more quickly at these temps.
    • Lower temperature over 2-3 days before adding livestock.
My main takeaways are to lower salinity, raise the temp, don't dose too much, don't keep dosing, and don't run any extra equipment.

 
Tidal Gardens

FuzzySPS

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As a follow-up to this almost year old post...is there any benefit AFTER cycling is complete to continuing to run the tank at elevated temperature and lower salinity to further increase the ability of the bio filter to grow and flourish assuming the tank remains fishless during the same period? I’ve tried to reach out to Dr. Tim’s about this as I plan on using their product to cycle once my tank arrives but whether attempting to reach them via email or phone, the state of their customer support currently appears to be totally non-existent.
 

NeonRabbit221B

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Nope. Usually I use the above steps (or variations) to cycle the rock in a bucket then place the rocks in my tanks at standard salinity and temp. I don't think you will see any benefit to high temps besides pod reproduction being faster around 81-82F.
 
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Azedenkae

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As a follow-up to this almost year old post...is there any benefit AFTER cycling is complete to continuing to run the tank at elevated temperature and lower salinity to further increase the ability of the bio filter to grow and flourish assuming the tank remains fishless during the same period? I’ve tried to reach out to Dr. Tim’s about this as I plan on using their product to cycle once my tank arrives but whether attempting to reach them via email or phone, the state of their customer support currently appears to be totally non-existent.
If you follow Dr. Tim's fishless cycling method to a tee, then no, not really. It is already designed to culture enough nitrifiers to handle a fully stocked tank.

Of you really want to though, you can up the ammonia dose from 2ppm to say 4ppm, and try to see if you can get your nitrifiers to handle that much in 24 hours. That would then mean they can handle double the amount of ammonia expected to be produced, which can give some leeway for you in the future.
 

FuzzySPS

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Understood but I’m talking only about when the tank is fishless (and in my particular case, lights out also). If these steps are for building the biofilter in the first place to allow ammonia to convert to nitrite and then to nitrate it would seem logical, to me at least, to continue the process to build it further and more quickly absent some chemical or biological explanation to the contrary. I also presume the tank might need to be fed or dosed to further this process along. Once any livestock, be they corals or fish would be added, I’d elevate the salinity and reduce the temperature to the normal desired levels.
 
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