Why are all Cycles not Created Equal?

AKL1950

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I’m trying to understand the science of cycling a new aquarium and why (I assume) different products produce such vastly different results. Specifically cycle time and testing results. I guess, in the end, each cycle gets from point A to point B (the cycle gets finished), but why is the timing so variable and why do you get such varied testing results as you move through the cycle.

I have limited experience with doing no live rock cycles and the two I’ve done in the last three months have been extremely different. First one took 7 days, while the one I’m doing now is dragging along and the ammonia is still lingering above .6 ppm. As I see it, since I’m starting with a clean slate (both systems are bare bottom and one with dry rock) the only variables are the types of ammonia and bacteria I put in the system to get it going. Here is the flow.

First was my 29 gal QT. I used Fritz Pro Aquatic Ammonium Chloride (set at 2 ppm) and Instant Ocean BioSpira (dumped a 70 gal bottle in). Within 2 days the nitrites and nitrates where high and the ammonia was zero. Dumped in more ammonia each day and the next morning it would always be zero again. Nitrites dissipated after 5 days. By day 7, ammonia zero, nitrites zero and nitrates were between 40-60 ppm. Did a big water change and put the fish in. Life was good. Second effort was setting up the DT. Bare bottom 200 gal total water and about 180 lbs dry rock. Running return pump and 4 power heads. Skimmer and UV off and filter socks removed. This time , on recommendation of LFS, I used MicroBacter QuikCycl as ammonia source and MicroBacter Start XLM for bacteria. Ammonia set at 2 ppm and per instructions put in 250 ml of XLM. After 2weeks, ammonia was still lingering around .9 ppm. That’s total ammonia. NO3 shows somewhere around .15 ppm. Nitrites have never showed above zero and except for one day when I threw in some fish food, nitrates have been zero as well. Going on three weeks now and ammonia still somewhere between 1.0 and 0.6 ppm, nitrites zero and nitrates zero. This seems painfully slow after the QT was complete in 7 days. Oh forgot. All system parameters for both tanks are identical. PH 8.1, temp 78, salinity 1.024.

So, my thought process (don’t laugh…..okay, you can laugh) is either the different ammonia sources are causing the difference, or the different bacteria are causing the difference.

ammonia: will ammonium chloride power show clean after the cycle, while liquid XLM (water and ammonia) will have lingering ammonia showing up 2-3 weeks later?

Bacteria: BioSpira be good and XLM be bad? Or, is there different bacteria flora in the two prodocts that process different parts of the ammonia? IE., does BioSpira process all ammonia faster than XLM? Or, did I just get a not so efficient bottle of XLM.

As said earlier, the DT cycle seems to be getting there, albeit much slower than the QT cycle. I’m using the same testing products on both, so I assume the results are showing accurately. Why is one cycle removing all ammonia within 48 hours while the other has yet to remove much over 50% in almost 3 weeks. I’m just trying to understand why they are so different in timing and testing.

Jetson
 
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AKL1950

AKL1950

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Guess that’s what I’m trying to understand. just about everything I’ve read about BioSpira (and my own experience) is it works pretty much immediately. What makes it so much better than all the others? Time IS money. Wish I would have stayed with it Instead of trying something else.
 
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So, my thought process (don’t laugh…..okay, you can laugh) is either the different ammonia sources are causing the difference, or the different bacteria are causing the difference.
It's the latter. Different bacteria.

Bacteria: BioSpira be good and XLM be bad? Or, is there different bacteria flora in the two prodocts that process different parts of the ammonia? IE., does BioSpira process all ammonia faster than XLM? Or, did I just get a not so efficient bottle of XLM.
It's not that one is good and the other is bad. It's that bio-spira is traditional nitrifying bacteria. They need no carbon in order to process ammonia. The other product is a heterotroph nitrifier. It requires carbon to do its job. In a normal tank with food going in, this is not a problem. But without carbon, it will just sit there staring at ammonia for weeks as you've seen. Confirmation of this is that when you added a little fish food, you actually saw some in NO2/NO3 produced.
 
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polyppal

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The problem with bottled bac is that it has a shelf life - and often times in shipping (too hot or too cold) it can kill off the bacteria, leaving you a useless bottle of water. I think this is why anti-bac people view it as being useless, because they got a bad batch and it didn’t assist their cycle.

IME they all do the same thing in helping speed up a new tank though, to me saving many days-weeks over a traditional cycle for like 9$ is a no brainer
 

taricha

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It's the latter. Different bacteria.
This answer was incomplete. Microbacter QuickCycle is also different from just the Fritz ammonia drops.

"Not your average ammonia source for starting the nitrogen cycle. Brightwell Aquatics MicroBacter QuickCycl contains the right strength of ammonium chloride along with balanced phosphates and nitrates to feed the bacteria that work to cycle a tank. This product is ideal for use with Microbacter Start XLM, and will provide the food source required for the bacteria to properly cycle the aquarium." - BRS description.

It doesn't explicitly say it, but it may also contain carbon to help the heterotroph nitrifiers.

To settle the question of whether you are "cycled" or your bacteria are duds, Add some crushed up fish flake. Check ammonia again in a day or two. It'll probably be near zero, unless the bacteria were killed/expired.
 

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The speed of division of the bacteria present, the species of bacteria present, the preferred metabolic pathways of the bacteria present, the tolerance of nutrient levels for certain bacteria present, etc etc etc.
 

Jedi1199

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For myself, I don't use bottled bacteria. Not because I don't believe it works. I know it works. It's been proven. I don't use it because I simply don't need it. I have always had a source of rock from an established tank to skip-cycle my tanks.

Why does it take longer for some tanks to cycle than other using dry rock method? This is a simple answer. The bacterial strains we need are airborne. ANY tank, filled with water, WILL eventually cycle. This is also proven. What we need to understand, and where the problem lies, is that not everything in that bottled stuff is naturally present in all areas of the world.

For example... Have you ever wondered why Sourdough bread from San Fransisco is so delicious? It is the simple fact that the yeast that makes that bread is only found in that one specific region. I live about 100 miles East of San Fransisco. Not only does my homemade Sourdough bread, NOT taste as good, but I actually have a hard time building up the yeast colonies at all to make a starter in the first place. My bread comes out as a hard dense lump even though I have tried to cultivate the yeast for MONTHS!!

Same situation when cycling a new tank where you are relying entirely on building these colonies of bacteria from whatever is airborne in your home. You may only have a few bacteria that find their way into your system and it takes a long time in that case to cultivate them into the thriving colonies that you need to cycle a tank.

This is why many people favor the bottled stuff. It has enough of the various colonies that are needed to cycle instantly.

As I said, I have started every tank I have owned for the last 30+ years from rocks from an established tank. Same thing as bottled bac, only its free and I have been fortunate enough to get my hands on it when I needed it.
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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Updated cycling science:



for 31 pages we name the exact start date for every tank, even the ones not built yet. 100% bioload carry happy.

all cycles have a predetermined attainable completion date, says any reef convention since 1982. I assume they didn’t exist before then :)

(All the full running demo reefs are ready by the convention start date, nobody stalls or missed the sales convention start date, sellers use different rules than buyers= a sales gradient exists.)

for 31 pages we use already charted ammonia drop dates. From a cycling chart, predetermined X decades ago. By day ten, a cycle that was boosted either by feed or direct inoculation of filter bac has it’s core surface area coated in functional bacteria. Any seneye owner, possessing a calibrated unit, will agree.


Our non digital ammonia testers *in the hands of res publica* are of no quality to claim error in a cycling chart.

Misinterpretation of api readings has caused mass doubt in ammonia drop dates from cycling charts, but they’re right. the ammonia drop date is usually day 10-11 on cycling charts printed or online for a reason


for 31 pages i ignore everyone’s stated api levels. We don’t use test kits. but we get spot checked. By seneye owners there. we use # of days underwater to solve for specific start dates.


we pass seneye spot checks any time they’re ran. I wish more spot checks occurred.

Nh3 control by a predetermined date… all the time, and if 31 pages of testless exact start date 0% loss 0% seneye inspection fails aren’t convincing, wait till I drive it to page one hundred. :)



cycles are very very very aligned up to and including complete skip cycles by just transferring rocks among tanks.


reef tank cycles don’t stall, we show. Anyone stating stalls are routine is not relaying digital nh3 trending to us. Stalls are api, truth is extremely timely cycling without tests.


Someone here, post one single example of a failed display cycle by day *three* on a seneye. Just one. We don’t even need ten days, with today’s boosts that’s grossly past due date. In assigning all the start dates above $$ on the line, I knew ten days and beyond was more than ready. Everyone was using one of the bottle bac mixes Dr Reef has already charted out to max three days to implantation.

Waiting ten, and having them spot feed a pinch of flake food at the start in all dry starts, directly makes up for the low incidence risk of dead bottle bac.

You can’t fail by day ten wait… and at no time will anyone be able to find a calibrated seneye unit (one that runs in range on a running reef) disagreeing. It is the known, pre charted agreed upon drop date/surface area activation date in cycling.
 
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AKL1950

AKL1950

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Wow! Too many variables for my little brain. The carbon discussion makes a lot of since. Tested again this afternoon. Ammonia still showing about .8 ppm, nitrite still zero, but nitrates finally popped up to 2.0 ppm with the Hanna checker. Maybe things are finally starting to move. I’ve got two bottles of BioSpira sitting on the counter. I’m wanting to go ahead and throw them in, but I’m going to wait another week and see if the ammonia drops.

Does oxygen play a part in this? Skimmer is off. Return pump and power heads are the only things stirring the water. I’ve got good ripples on top, but pumps and flow going to the sump are the only things aerating the water.

Jetson
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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Any reader should pick and post a link from the most broken cycle you could possibly find, we will decode it quickly. You will have an exact start date any digital nh3 inspection will agree is cycled.

Not any link is about to be of an uncycled tank, is the bet, if we get any challenges. They’ll all be api and Red Sea false panic reads as nh4 with an expectation of absolute zero ammonia as nh4.
 
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AKL1950

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Brandon, I’ve listened to everything you say, and yes I’m a believer. Albeit an impatient believer. I just can’t get my brain around the fact that the ammonia level is still elevated. I also test my QT ammonia as well and it always comes out near zero, so I’m assuming the test kit is accurate.
 
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brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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where are our broken cycle challenge links :)

on any forum, at any time, there’s a minimum twenty claimed stalled cycles. let’s see one that is real
 
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AKL1950

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I hear you. I know mine is not stalled. It’s just being a bit slow for my liking. I’m just all about learning the science/biology of why it’s slower than my little brain wants it to be.

My personality won’t allow me to just sit and watch something happen. I will always keep digging until I understand everything about why it happens the way it does. I won’t be satisfied until I have completely discovered the WHY. That’s why I got back into reef aquariums. So many variables/different variations when you are dealing with living entities. So much to learn in an ever changing environment. Even just watching fish and coral different personalities is amazing.

I suspect, as you have said, my system is cycling fine. I will keep running around it tight little circles till I completely understand why it’s cycling just fine. it’s my own personal genetic flaw of never being satisfied with less than everything I can learn. My other hobby is convincing 100’ trees to only grow into a 2’ Bonsai‘s. Just as many challenges and just as rewarding when you get it right.
 

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I’m trying to understand the science of cycling a new aquarium and why (I assume) different products produce such vastly different results. Specifically cycle time and testing results. I guess, in the end, each cycle gets from point A to point B (the cycle gets finished), but why is the timing so variable and why do you get such varied testing results as you move through the cycle.

I have limited experience with doing no live rock cycles and the two I’ve done in the last three months have been extremely different. First one took 7 days, while the one I’m doing now is dragging along and the ammonia is still lingering above .6 ppm. As I see it, since I’m starting with a clean slate (both systems are bare bottom and one with dry rock) the only variables are the types of ammonia and bacteria I put in the system to get it going. Here is the flow.

First was my 29 gal QT. I used Fritz Pro Aquatic Ammonium Chloride (set at 2 ppm) and Instant Ocean BioSpira (dumped a 70 gal bottle in). Within 2 days the nitrites and nitrates where high and the ammonia was zero. Dumped in more ammonia each day and the next morning it would always be zero again. Nitrites dissipated after 5 days. By day 7, ammonia zero, nitrites zero and nitrates were between 40-60 ppm. Did a big water change and put the fish in. Life was good. Second effort was setting up the DT. Bare bottom 200 gal total water and about 180 lbs dry rock. Running return pump and 4 power heads. Skimmer and UV off and filter socks removed. This time , on recommendation of LFS, I used MicroBacter QuikCycl as ammonia source and MicroBacter Start XLM for bacteria. Ammonia set at 2 ppm and per instructions put in 250 ml of XLM. After 2weeks, ammonia was still lingering around .9 ppm. That’s total ammonia. NO3 shows somewhere around .15 ppm. Nitrites have never showed above zero and except for one day when I threw in some fish food, nitrates have been zero as well. Going on three weeks now and ammonia still somewhere between 1.0 and 0.6 ppm, nitrites zero and nitrates zero. This seems painfully slow after the QT was complete in 7 days. Oh forgot. All system parameters for both tanks are identical. PH 8.1, temp 78, salinity 1.024.

So, my thought process (don’t laugh…..okay, you can laugh) is either the different ammonia sources are causing the difference, or the different bacteria are causing the difference.

ammonia: will ammonium chloride power show clean after the cycle, while liquid XLM (water and ammonia) will have lingering ammonia showing up 2-3 weeks later?

Bacteria: BioSpira be good and XLM be bad? Or, is there different bacteria flora in the two prodocts that process different parts of the ammonia? IE., does BioSpira process all ammonia faster than XLM? Or, did I just get a not so efficient bottle of XLM.

As said earlier, the DT cycle seems to be getting there, albeit much slower than the QT cycle. I’m using the same testing products on both, so I assume the results are showing accurately. Why is one cycle removing all ammonia within 48 hours while the other has yet to remove much over 50% in almost 3 weeks. I’m just trying to understand why they are so different in timing and testing.

Jetson
Different microorganisms, materials, water, temp, lighting and more. Thats what I think at least
 
AquaSD

taricha

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I suspect, as you have said, my system is cycling fine. I will keep running around it tight little circles till I completely understand why it’s cycling just fine.
I'm curious too.
Like I said, crush up a bit of fish flake and see if ammonia drops to near zero in a day or two.
The bottle bacteria myth or fact thread has plenty of documentation of some products that just sat there staring at dosed ammonia until fish flake was added. see post here for example.
 

Jedi1199

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@brandon429 and I have been discussing my new build.

I have a Seneye unit that I purchased when I began my 55g build. I am going to employ this as I start up my new 135.

The reason I am going to do this is to provide further hard data to his research. I have every confidence that my new tank will skip-cycle immediately given that I have an established tank that I will draw upon for the new build.

Since the actual bio-load will not change, there is no reason why the new build will not be able to process the current load I have in the 55g even though I will triple the total volume (135g tank plus 34g sump)

Now, here is an interesting question that I have.

Even though I know that the new larger system will skip-cycle, Will the increased volume, plus new lighting upgrade initiate a new round of "uglies"?

Not a cycling question as such, but a question of what happens after the cycle is complete. I have 50 pounds of new dry rock curing in a Brute can of tank water plus the squeezed out sponges from one of my canister filters.

Am I facing a new battle against GHA/Bryopsis? Bubble algae bloom? Dinos? Cyano?

I wonder...
 
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It's the latter. Different bacteria.


It's not that one is good and the other is bad. It's that bio-spira is traditional nitrifying bacteria. They need no carbon in order to process ammonia. The other product is a heterotroph nitrifier. It requires carbon to do its job. In a normal tank with food going in, this is not a problem. But without carbon, it will just sit there staring at ammonia for weeks as you've seen. Confirmation of this is that when you added a little fish food, you actually saw some in NO2/NO3 produced.


How were you able to find out the bacterial species within microbacter xlm? Did you find it yourself (i.e. you analyzed it) or did brightwell mention it?
 

Erin1971Texas

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Did you look at this yet?
 

What are all the ways you "filter" your reef aquarium?

  • Chemical Filter Media

    Votes: 188 47.4%
  • Skimmer

    Votes: 327 82.4%
  • Natural Methods (rock, sand etc)

    Votes: 341 85.9%
  • Algae Scrubber/Reactor

    Votes: 53 13.4%
  • Rollermats

    Votes: 68 17.1%
  • Filter Socks/Pads

    Votes: 218 54.9%
  • UV Sterilizer

    Votes: 120 30.2%
  • HOB or Canister

    Votes: 56 14.1%
  • Ozone Generator

    Votes: 15 3.8%
  • Coral

    Votes: 202 50.9%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 7 1.8%
  • Refugium

    Votes: 154 38.8%
  • Water Changes

    Votes: 278 70.0%
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