Aquarium Setup • Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Mon Mar 29, 2021 9:09 pm

My tank is on a slab. Though technically the sump is currently sitting on a not so rigid table on a carpet on a concrete slab. not sure if that helps or hurts or will be any different when the sump is sitting on wood directly on the slab.

Matala Mat is an interesting idea. I do already have a bunch of scrap egg crate laying around tho so it's a "free" solution. I'll look into it though, I've heard Matala Mat before but never looked into what it actually was.

Interesting you mention Pothos. I've been reading about adding terrestrial house plants to help with Nitrate and Pothos is what's mostly mentioned. But, it's toxic to pets and I have 2 cats and a dog so it's not really an option for me. My animals will find a way to eat it, they're dumb. I was looking into some pet friendly alternatives and debating trying Spider plants or Swedish Ivy. I did buy a couple patio planters (with no drains) and thinking I could set them on top of my canopy and run a separate loop off the sump. either another small pump or tee off the Simplicity. Funny enough, I have tee's and ball valves and barbed fittings from the previous setup where I thought I would set up a system to shut off flow to the display but keep the sump circulating on a bypass loop, but eventually tore that out because I never really used it. Probably caused me trouble because I didn't have a lot of space above my sump when it was a 55. There's a lot more room using the 40 breeder.

Looking forward to hearing how the batteries work.

As for my progress, I didn't do the test fill yet. planning that for tomorrow as it's the nicest day of the week. I did drag the tank away from the wall in the garage and start dusting it off. I made a couple unfortunate (but hopefully not project canceling) discoveries.

1) I discovered a crack through the rim of the bottom brace (near 1 of the 2 cross braces, but not actually threw it. I have no idea when that might have happened. Maybe sitting out in the garage warming up and cooling down, the plastic probably expands/contracts more than the glass, maybe that put enough stress on it that it popped? Or maybe it's always been there and I forgot? I'm going to search through some of my old posts here from years ago to see if I ever mentioned it. I feel like I would have noticed it when painting the back and remembered. But I think I can ignore it without any risk to the tank since the bottom center brace is still intact front to back (and I doubt that brace actually sees much load anyways since the bottom glass already ties the front and back together and there's no way that bottom center brace is pretensioned in order to prevent the silicone seam from carrying that load. I can really think of any load that would have been supported by the section of the bottom brace where the crack is (tho also if it happened while the tank was set up in the past and filled I can't think of what load would have caused the crack either...) Anyways I think I'm going to proceed, I think it's not a worry. I just hope someone else can agree with me about it not being a worry :D

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2) My stand may or may not have developed a wobble (or it could just be my garage floor is not entirely flat, since it was more/less apparent as I dragged the stand around with the tank on top). I'll have to figure out if it is actually warped or not and decide if I want to just build a new stand now which is something I wanted to do eventually anyways, but don't currently have my wife's permission to kick off until she gets her she-shed (which is already like 3 summers overdue). I do have about an inch of pink foam insulation between the tank and stand top to even out my poor craftsmanship and cheap material when it was built, but I'm not sure I want an additional warp stressing the seams of the tank.

3) this is probably just a cosmetic thing but it's weird. I had some kind of thick black fabric sheet to hide the pick foam under the tank. Well... it (or something fluid that got soaked into it sitting in my garage for 10 years) kind of reacted with the plastic frame in spots on the bottom of the tank. The plastic is a little deformed and the black sheet is a bit bonded with it. I think the corner below the sheet got bunched up and was pulling on the corner and deformed it a little. There are also spots where the sheet is just stuck to the bottom of the plastic rim.

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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Tue Mar 30, 2021 11:27 am

For the slab, I was meaning that it probably wouldn't transfer the harmonic through the floor into my feet like the wood floor does. I think that this exists for me because I have two pumps and they're not turning at exactly the same speed.

Pothos - Initially, the thought was like yours. I'd use the terrestrial plant to reduce or control nitrates. NOPE! Again, here, we can take a queue from other aquatic hobbies, in this case aquaponics. It takes about one LARGE plant to deal with the nitrates from one Mbuna. I mean like, one entire tomato plant. So, if you were to run the plumbing out of your tank and then through all the garage, which would be full of plants, then you got it! I realized this and resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to do water changes to control nitrate. So why do I keep pothos? Well, I had it because I thought it would work, and I find it pretty, I guess. Also, the cutting that I have came out of Grandma's house, and she passed at the beginning of the year, so I'll keep it going. I have two cats who are certified morons. I certified them and made them cards. They were laminated. They deserved it. They have never touched the pothos, but it was surely a concern for us as well. You know your animals... :)

Matala mat - VERY hard to beat free solutions. When I engaged in this project, I did not have any tanks or old gear laying around. Scratch again from the bottom for me!

For batteries, I am NOT an electrician, but here's what I have in theory:
Two batteries in series provide 24v to match the powers supply of the pump.
I got a two bank low-amp charger to keep them all topped up and maintained all the time.
I got a relay with a 110AC coil that will plug directly into the power bar just to activate the switch.
Default position on the relay (not lighting the 110AC coil) pulls battery power.
Closed position when the 110AC coil is hot pulls power from the power supply.
So - if the power that lights the 110AC coil on the relay goes out, I know that the power supplying the pump went out, and it should switch over automatically to battery power. At that point, I have 55AH of batteries and a pump that's pulling 2.4 Amps, so I should have 23 hours of backup with one pump running.

On the crack - SON OF A [email protected]#$*~! in my spare time, I'm a certified redneck (yep, laminated card). I would fix it and run it. I'd fix it with the redneck's best friend - JB weld. Rough up the area REALLY good with sand paper so the JB weld will stick, then I'd make a patch of fiberglass mat about 1x2 inches or the width of the bottom plastic brace. Slather the glue onto the frame, shove the fiberglass mat down into it, then saturate to hold. I've even done this with a piece of printer paper to add a little structure to the JB weld. I have no idea if this will work or not. Just what I'd do.

On the solvent on the bottom, I'd guess that's cosmetic... but I'm very dumb.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Tue Mar 30, 2021 2:05 pm

Plants: Sure, I'm not expecting to eliminate water changes or achieve 0 nitrate. I figure it might help remove a little, even measurable amount of nitrate? Or maybe outcompete the algae on the other macronutrients I've never tested for? I've always had a ton of the brown diatoms and occasionally get it to turn green but it never gets any growth to it, more of a film, and the pain in the butt spot algae on the glass that's so difficult to remove. If I can't get desirable algae (assuming there is such a thing) maybe plants can prevent, or more likely, marginally slow the undesirable algae? Or in any case, as you say, they'll look nice :D

Batteries: I figured you'd be trickle charging. The part I didn't know how it would work would be how to get it to automatically switch over when the power went out. I assumed there was some type of switch - I guess the relay is the technical term I didn't know about. Bout the only thing I do remember about electronics and batteries from my RC clubs I joined back in college was that rated/advertised capacity is rarely actually achieved in practice, so I hope your 55AH you're planning on isn't far off from what you actually end up with.

The crack: I didn't really consider I would try to fix it or re-bond it. I didn't figure anything bonded to the plastic well enough. Is JB weld a pretty good bond assuming it's scuffed up enough? I tried to stop a crack through my centerbrace on the 55 I was going to use for a sump with some squeeze tube epoxy and it maybe worked for a while at first but eventually unbonded and well you've read the ultimate fate of that tank already earlier in this thread. I did macguyver a plastic mobile my first son ripped the hanging hook off of with epoxy saturated paper towel (and I'm proud of the fact that fix has survived like 4 more years and my second son!) so I'm in no way above rednecking a solution. However in this case I think my plan is to test fill the tank and observe the crack. If it doesn't separate/displace/move in any way, then I'll use the tank and it wouldn't matter whether it's JB welded back together or not (it's a nice option as a cosmetic filler though!). If it does move and that movement looks threatening to the integrity of the tank, I'm not sure I'd trust a JB weld fix anyways.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Tue Mar 30, 2021 3:55 pm

Well, I guess that this says a lot about me. I paid such close attention to the quantitative differences that the Pothos made in the tank, that I did not look at the qualitative. Quantitatively, there was no measurable difference. I had 3 30 gallon tanks with nearly identical stocking and decor. Submerged anubias and java fern in all, but the pothos in only one. If I measured nitrates in all 3 tanks at the same time, I got nearly identical results, so within the accuracy confines of the API test kit - no, there is no measurable difference. I suppose that I could also say that there was not a material qualitative difference between the 3 because I didn't notice one. Yes, I understand the logical holes in this argument, and I will repent later.

The batteries and battery backup are an interesting one. I bought an on-board battery charger which is probably actually intended to go in a boat and keep the trolling motor batteries topped up. I went this route because it is a 4 amp charger per bank, which means that if my relay blows up, it should still run off the battery default and through the power bar/battery charger. Maybe, I don't know... I'm dumb. Also, the charger is waterproof...because boats. Also, because it has some interesting top up/desulfate capabilities to keep the batteries lasting long.
The battery capacity is an interesting question - I'm actually limited on physical space. I would love to throw 110s in there, but to make the 24v system, I need two batteries, so it's actually two 55ah batteries in series. Double volts but keep the same capacity.
The other problem, is that I can't really test it out without being willing to replace the batteries. Even with the AGM Deep cycles, they're not really supposed to drain past 80%. They won't really come back from that, so I'm going off the stated battery capacity. I found with my 24v trolling motor, it was actually pretty accurate, if not a little short. Just trying to buy time.

I like the idea of a test fill and observe. I did one on the big tank even though it was 500 gallons and people said I was crazy. In my case, one of the things I was observing was the floor... :) I also like JB weld. It really is good stuff. Epoxy saturated paper is SOOOO Strong.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Wed Mar 31, 2021 12:26 am

Ah yeah those API cards... I used to dilute 4 samples to 1, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 tank to tap mixtures just to have more data points to try to divine the actual reading. So I can easily see how it's impossible to measure a small amount of nitrate reduction due to plants should said reduction actually exist.

Some good news - no, great news - tank test fill went great! No leaks. Ever so small drip into the right corner overflow at the bottom where the overflow silicone seam meets the tank silicone seam. That's no problem and I remember it being like that before. As for the crack in the bottom frame, it didn't widen or shift in the slightest. Just no load on it. I'm fully confident the structural integrity of the tank is in no way threatened by it - at least the confidence of a guy setting the tank up in his basement anyways :D . Oh as for the stand it's totally fine as well. Busted out the level and my garage floor is sloped in 2 directions, towards the middle then towards the front. Makes sense for making sure water runs out but annoying for say test filling an aquarium. I found a mostly level spot and went for it. With the weight of the full tank on top the stand doesn't even wiggle when I bump into it. Still solid. OK that stand still needs wiped down and some touch up paint but it's functional.

The sight of success:
Image

So, onward. sump is still working on converting ammonia to nitrite. Been testing every other day and still all green/blue for ammonia/nitrite. Almost 2 weeks since adding ammonia. I hate how long this takes from scratch. When I set up my first tank in 2009, a 55g, I apparently added ammonia on September 29th and the ammonia finally disappeared and converted to nitrite on October 13 - so exactly 2 weeks. That means tomorrow should be the magical day (ain't exponential growth rates fun. nothing for 2 weeks then boom). Then starts the more annoying wait for nitrite to go away while adding ammonia every other day and starting water changes to prevent nitrite from just running away.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Deeda » Wed Mar 31, 2021 10:28 am

Congrats on the test fill success!
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Sat Apr 03, 2021 12:34 am

Tomorrow (today, actually) is tank moving day! I'm excited as a kid on Christmas Eve haha.

Had another fake scare. Tank has been sitting full since I filled it Tuesday. Checked it yesterday and the cloth it's sitting on was wet under the tank near an edge. Oh no, a leak! Not so... That drip into the corner overflow finally leaked enough to start spilling through the drilled holes. Instead of just dripping down to the bottom, it ran down the edge of the hole and wicked across the bottom of the bottom glass to the edge and soaked into the cloth, which then spread underneath the edge to the outside where I saw it. Stuffed a paper towel down the bottom of the overflow to catch the drips and it all dried up again.

I did not yet hit the magic cycling day of finding Nitrites. Have not tested since Wednesday, tho. So officially my cycle is progressing slower than expected. My ammonia is starting to fade away in the readings. Down to about 0.5ppm. but not yet showing up as nitrite. Saw the same happen back in 2009 when I set up my very first tank. Posted a thread about it and everything. Back then I kept adding more ammonia to bring the test back up to my target level. Eventually the cycle happened and of course will eventually happen now as well and I'm in no real hurry yet as there is still work to do before I can get fish. Yet...

SenorStrum, mi amigo, I've been reading aquariumscience.org in my free time... The information there says higher ammonia (and high nitrite) will encourage beneficial bacteria growth faster than lower levels. With the optimum being claimed as something in the 100's of ppm. This goes against conventional wisdom (of which I have my own anecdote of off the chart Nitrites and my cycle completing the day after a big water change to massively reduce Nitrites to a readable level). Of course I now have another day point of a cycle progressing more slowly with much less ammonia added throughout the first 2 weeks (1ppm at the start, down to .5 ppm now with no additional added cycling slower than multiple doses of ammonia added to maintain 2-5 ppm ammonia is slightly more water). I'm not about to go add 100's of ppm of ammonia but I may just take it to 5ppm if I go test in the morning and still don't find Nitrites.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Sun Apr 04, 2021 8:55 pm

Tank and stand successfully moved! :dancing:

After moving the tank downstairs, I realized whatever solvent caused the fabric to bond with the plastic frame also significantly ate at my pink insolation under the tank. So I replaced the 2 layers of 1/2" foam with a single 1" thick sheet, and trimmed and taped my black sheet to the foam better than the hack and tuck job I had before. Much cleaner look now. I also took out my little hand held jigsaw and cut the bulkhead access holes like 4x bigger. That was a serious flaw in the original setup, I had no way to get a channel lock on the bulkhead nuts. I actually had cut one hole a little bigger with a hacksaw blade (laying on my back under the stand lol) because I was somehow dumb enough to fill the whole tank before making sure the bulkheads didn't leak and didn't want to drain and move the tank again to properly fix it. :oops: Well now it's properly fixed. I'm feeling really good about how well everything is coming together. The major barriers to getting this set up and running again are behind me :fish:

My fishless cycle continues to confuse me, but at least in the way I'm familiar with from the first time I did it. Today when I did my tests both ammonia and nitrite read 0. I did not bother testing the 'trates because I know it's not a full cycle yet. I still don't know where the ammonia goes in the phase. I brought the sump back up to ~2ppm today this time rather than the 1ppm I started at, and topped off most of what water has evaporated over the past couple weeks. I'll test again tomorrow and see what I have. Nitrites should blow up soon, based on past experience. I can see some sort of organic film starting to form on the inside walls of the clear vinyl tubing and surfaces are starting to get that slimy slippery feel so seems like I've got some biofilm starting to build up.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Mon Apr 05, 2021 12:24 pm

That is all SO exciting!

Also, test your nitrates. It's really possible that you're actually good to go. Smeagol and I had a long conversation about the fishless cycle here:
https://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/vie ... 4&t=454163

I wrote so much in that post that I don't really want to repeat, cause it's really long. Also, I talk a lot about actually dosing extremely high amounts of ammonium. But, my thoughts are this:
1. As you've noted, the API tests are no good at reading large amounts of ammonia. Therefore the user can't really see that it's changing and will get frustrated. Smaller amounts can be observed to be changing easier.
2. Acidification through the buildup of nitric acid is a real thing and will stop the cycle. I would wager that it was not high nitrites that you fixed in the water change, but low PH instead.
3. I would worry about this fact pattern - You dose small amounts of ammonia, then it's converted slowly to nitrite. So slowly, in fact, that the nitrite is converted to nitrate without ever spiking. If you add too many fish, there are not sufficient bacteria to convert higher amounts quickly, and that's when you find the spike.

Good luck! I'm really enjoying reading about the progress.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Mon Apr 05, 2021 3:57 pm

Thank you! I remember I read that thread when I came back to the site and just read it again now. All good stuff and I appreciate you sharing! This thread is kind of my personal blog at the moment, I'm glad someone is appreciating reading my rambling haha.

This is all deja vu to me right now. I started a thread like 12 years ago the first time I fishless cycled. Going back and reading what I was seeing then is very familiar to what I'm seeing now. Back then I was dosing a higher concentration of ammonia but it was... evaporating? I claimed I was losing about 0.5ppm every other day, which is in line with what I'm seeing now. Then, I kept adding more to try to maintain 2ppm. At one point I thought maybe I was misreading the results and way over-dosed, but I diluted some samples with tap water and found the concentration matched what I thought (2ppm) despite adding much more total ammonia than that over time. (that's also when I discovered prime treated tap water mixed with tank sample completely hides api ammonia results) The first thought then was also that maybe the nitrite was getting converted to nitrate simultaneously and I was fully cycled... but no, did not detect nitrates then. A few days of being confused and posting frantically and then one day whoosh ammonia was gone and nitrites were off the chart. So... I'm kinda expecting a repeat performance here, and that maybe it's just taking longer since I started with a lower dose of ammonia both ppm and total and didn't add more again since until yesterday. But, I will test this evening and see what the tests tell.

To your other points:
1: yeah, I don't even bother trying to fill the test tube up to the 5ml line precisely anymore. I just put some drops in and look for color changes at this point haha.
2: this is interesting. I actually mentioned back in my old thread that I had done some research on this point and mentioned how I should recheck my pH and KH, but then the next day is when the nitrites showed up off the chart and I probably forgot all about doing that. And don't know if I ever did check because I haven't found the threads if I ever talked about doing the water change for the elevated nitrites. So I suppose I should actually monitor my pH and KH and see how it's changing as my cycle progresses, and then if my KH gets used up and/or pH starts to drop I just throw in some baking soda right?
3: As I mentioned above I don't think this is what's happening and soon I should be seeing the nitrites spike. But in any case, the plan is to finish off the cycle in the full setup where I'll have to add much more ammonia to even get to 2ppm. I started low thinking the bacteria would grow faster in smaller concentrations based on both my past experience as well as the conventional wisdom that higher concentrations of nitrite and ammonia slowed bacteria growth - wisdom I've passed on myself from time to time. Always good to keep learning :thumb:
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:40 pm

Test results:
Ammonia: 2ppm
Nitrite and Nitrate: both 0ppm

This is day 18 after adding ammonia. So starting with a low concentration, seems like no bueno. 1ppm in 30gal doesn't seem enough.

I added another 2ppm to bring it up to 4ppm. :Shrug:
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Tue Apr 06, 2021 1:38 pm

Trying not to overthink this (failing, etc...) I did read on aquariumscience all the other "stuff" that could be added in addition to ammonia (and the reasons why) to "optimize" fishless cycling... sodium nitrite, baking soda, table sugar, baker's yeast, calcium sulfate, sodium phosphate, magnesium sulfate, ferrous sulfate... I don't plan on doing all that, really don't want to overcomplicate a process that could/should be as simple as ammonia + time = cycled. But a couple interesting points that recalibrate my thinking a little.

One point being lacking a phosphate source. Which makes sense because I've suspected my water is naturally low phosphate (and high silicate in the past due to the sand I was using) due to the type of algae I've seen in the past. Mostly brown algae that occasionally turned a little green, and green spot algae on the glass (which is a symptom of low phosphate iirc).

The other point being something I was actually thinking about without putting an organized thought to, but only adding ammonia and not adding something organic like fish food means I'm missing an opportunity to start building the bacteria colony that breaks down the solids into ammonia. I think those grow pretty fast though once fish waste starts showing up though, and I don't think there's anything negative to allowing solid wastes to persist trapped in the filter a little while until this process happens.

Sidenote: also finding out that my original thinking of regularly cleaning my first foam block and not disturbing the others is likely at best unnecessary and at worst disruptive. I don't plan on using filter socks or cleaning mechanical filtration often enough to remove this waste before it starts to break down so it's all eventually nitrate anyways. Kinda relieved to find that the best maintenance schedule might just be "don't touch anything until the water level on the pump side of the sump drops too much".

So basically what I'm thinking is, I've got a couple relatively low effort action I can take to maybe help things along but at worst doing no harm.

1) When I was digging out my old equipment I found a 10yr old jar of NLS-grow that I'd probably (maybe?) not want to feed to fish after this long anyways, but it's probably just fine to throw into a cycling filter as a source of ammonia and "other things" claimed to be helpful for building beneficial bacteria (phosphates, sulfates, iron, carbon dioxide, etc and in addition, a small amount of seed beneficial bacteria the author of aquariumscience claims is present in fish food... this is my skeptical face on that claim (-__-) ). But probably can only help/not hurt if I go throw a little scoop of that old food in there.

2) I doubt this will have much of an impact, but I also found a brand new looking whisper 100 air pump in my old equipment and I've already been debating running a big ol' air stone under the bio balls. That could theoretically add in more O2 and CO2 which can't hurt. However, I have a whole lot of circulation going on right now so I'm not sure I can really benefit too much from aeration. But putting it below the bio balls might help since the flow already passes through the first 2 layers of foam where some O2 and CO2 should be getting used up, so aerating the bioballs should help them and the final layer of foam be a little more productive. maybe? Only reason I haven't done this yet is because I'm also debating just ordering another block of foam and removing the bioballs (or moving them to the final "chamber" with the pump to be used as seeding media for emergency spare tanks)

3) add some baking soda - pending testing pH and KH again. I believe my 7.6 pH and 4-5dKH is sufficient once I'm running a live bio load and regularly changing water, but maybe the KH is low enough to get used up and pH lowers while trying to cycle up the BB in a fixed small volume of water and no water changes.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby DJRansome » Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:43 pm

Adding fish food would be like adding ammonia but messier and would take longer to work because it would first have to rot and make ammonia. I would skip this.

There is no reason to skip water changes during a cycle. Is your pH and KH fluctuating? If yes I would be adding baking soda anyway and forever. If not, no need.

Air stones are not the most efficient aerators and what good they do happens at the surface, not while they travel through the water column.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby SenorStrum » Tue Apr 06, 2021 3:25 pm

YOU ARE SO CLOSE!

You are coming up with all the right answers on your own (right, at least, insofar as they're the same answers I came up with). I've enjoyed this thread tremendously, thank you!

API test tubes - I use a baby medicine doser (10 ml syringe with no needle) to fill the test tubes, it works better than anything I've found, but relying on color change is inherently inaccurate, especially outside the window of levels the test was designed for.

PH/KH - when cycling my box, I used some Malawi lake buffer salts I had picked up early on. I don't use it in my tank now, but it was great to keep this up high to keep bacteria living. Nitric acid will stop a cycle. A KH above 3 should not swing that hard. Mine out of the tap is right around 3.

That's the less interesting stuff though. You are on the right track to discover the magic secret of the aquarium - Heterotrophic bacteria. So close.

Your point about the cycle is absolutely spot on - "Ammonia + time = cycled." This is true if the only bar you're setting for yourself is the oxidization of ammonia into nitrate. Super low bar. Very low. It will keep your fish from pooping themselves to death, and is necessary, but not all it can be. Ammonia oxidizing creatures are autotrophic like plants. They get chemicals (non-food, like ammonia, nitrite, or CO2) and convert them into food. This conversion makes them safe. What about all the other "Food items" you need something to "Eat" them. This is where heterotrophic bacteria comes in. This is just a word that means "gets is food from something else, not itself." These are the bacteria that "convert food/poo to ammonia." You are spot on in noting that you do not have a food source for them, and so you are not growing them.

What does this mean for an aquarium though? It means that if you cycle your sump with ammonia, you will put fish in it and you will NEVER find ammonia or nitrite in it. It is completely "cycled." As soon as you add fish and then you start adding fish food, you're going to get an explosion of diatoms, green algae, possibly green slime (blue/green algae), cloudy water and sick fish. Why is this?

Think of it this way - Your aquarium has food source now. So it WILL grow bacteria. The bacteria you cycled in the filter are not going to get rid of this new "Food." So something else will. Since it's not effectively growing on a bunch of media in your filter, it's going to grow inside of your aquarium and in your water column. If it's growing in your water column, the fish are constantly having to fight the bacteria off (even if they're benign, they still elicit an immune response from the fish). Lots of bacteria in the water column to fight off, lots of biological energy and resources devoted to that, less to other tasks and it becomes way more likely your fish will be perpetually unhealthy. You'll deal with things like Ich, epistylis, underlying bacertial infections, and bloat constantly. You'll post things on forums asking how to get rid of your diatoms. Slime algae becomes a problem... you add antibiotics... it gets worse.

So growing the heterotrophic bacteria now is super necessary. I came to the same conclusion after running just ammonia - this isn't enough. I had a bottle of expired tetra flakes I added. I added LOTs. Constantly. I added TONS of ammonia. Feed it the old food. I'd feed it daily like there were fish in it. You want it to break down into all the nutrients and things that may be in your tank later, so you have the bacterial colonies to eat it up later and keep it out of your water column. This is why Dave adds so much stuff to a cycling tank. I actually understand this now and agree that it would work. And work very well. I did not have access easily to many of the things he mentioned, and I was halfway through cycling with ammonia when I decided to add other stuff, but I did add bakers yeast and sugar. The difference that made was simply amazing - I wrote about it in the other thread. Immediate nitrite reduction.

Your side note is what tells me you are so super close. You are correct - you're not going to clean any media enough. Everything will become nitrates. That's fine, just be prepared to deal with it. Also, the cleaning - no cleaning. I am doing like you're doing. Watching for water flow to slow down and then I'll clean my blocks. I anticipate this will take LONG time.

Given all that, I decided that simplest was indeed best. I got a ton of foam, grew bacteria on it, and my tank is crystal clear. Looking down from the end, you look through 3 meters of super clear water. No signs of sickness or stress on any of my fish. No explosions of algae.

The most typical suggestion given in the algae discussion is to reduce light and nutrients. I refuse to reduce light. So... No. I also have fish to feed, so I can't really reduce nutrients by not adding them to the tank as conventional wisdom suggests, so I compensate by growing other stuff directly in my sump on HUGE amounts of effective (not ceramic or "Fancy") media to keep nutrients in my display down. My goal (however attainable it is...) is to scrub all the nutrients out of the water with a single pass through the sump.
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Re: Setting my 125g back up after 9 years stored in garage

Postby Rhinox » Wed Apr 07, 2021 12:33 am

DJRansome wrote:Adding fish food would be like adding ammonia but messier and would take longer to work because it would first have to rot and make ammonia. I would skip this.
Given where I'm at in my cycle the thought was not to replace my ammonia source with food but to add it to add the additional nutrients the beneficial bacteria are claimed to need to help them grow (I've had ammonia in my filter for 3 weeks now and still haven't produced any nitrites, I doubt anything could take longer at this point anyways), as well as to cultivate the bacteria that break down the wastes into ammonia. I suppose the counterargument is that I should strive to mechanically filter and remove that waste prior to it having the opportunity to break down into ammonia so as to lessen the nitrate burden as much as possible. And that would make the bacteria needed to break that waste down unnecessary.

There is no reason to skip water changes during a cycle. Is your pH and KH fluctuating? If yes I would be adding baking soda anyway and forever. If not, no need.
I'm not sure why I would need to be doing water changes at all while fishless cycling. wouldn't that just remove the ammonia I'm adding to try to get the bacteria to grow? The only water change I ever did while ammonia cycling my first 55g 12 years ago was when I thought my nitrites were too high to cycle after day mid-to-late-30-something. I had completed the ammonia to nitrite phase by day 14 so 3 weeks waiting for nitrite to nitrate was making me impatient, and my cycle finished the day after the water change, so I possibly made some faulty conclusions based on that.

When I'm cycled and fully set up, I expect to have quite stable parameters due to the drip waterchanger. 5 drops KH is usually said to be sufficient. But whether it's stable enough to complete a fishless cycle without waterchanges is I think a separate consideration.

I again just went back through my old threads and found one where I asked opinions about whether I should buffer. The conclusion then was a wishy washy probably fine without buffering. Then later in that thread I posted that I discovered my pH had dropped during the process of fishless cycling (I had narrowed the range to 6.4-7.2, while my tap was 7.6). The advice I got (but apparently didn't stick) was that I could buffer it back up with baking soda until the cycle completes to prevent stalling out, and that once I was stocked and started weekly w/c I would be continuously replenishing KH and would be fine without buffering.

Air stones are not the most efficient aerators and what good they do happens at the surface, not while they travel through the water column.

So the surface area of the bubbles doesn't facilitate gas exchange directly? Just the act of circulating fluid up to the surface then? fair enough. I'm currently turning over a rated 2100GPH in 30 gallons of water so I think I'm already probably aerated as well as I can expect to be anyways.

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@strum: I'm not sure what exactly I'm close to just yet. I admit your posts here and in other threads have played a part in nudging me in this direction, but I still have some reservations.

I have had mad diatoms, but I wouldn't have claimed any of the other issues you mention as possible consequences of cycling with only ammonia. I COULDN'T grow green algae. Water was always clear, not cloudy. No sick fish with any of the named diseases. I did have occasional cases of bloat but likely cause being mbuna aggression rather than water quality. I always did very large weekly water changes though and kept nitrates <20ppm. I did have problems occur once I failed to keep up with w/c's and nitrates became elevated - by elevated, I'm talking 20-100ppm rather than <20... levels the aquariumscience author claims as perfectly fine for adult fish. Also my fish grew extremely slowly and never reached the sizes I expected to see the mbuna grow to, despite what I thought were pristine water conditions. My synodontis in particular didn't do well and they seemed more sensitive to elevated nitrates and seemed not to tolerate any parameter swings from the large weekly w/c's I was doing. That's why the drip changer is particularly important to me this setup. I also was more aggressive with sponge rinsing than the aquariumscience author claims is possible without causing a re-cycle. I had 2 AC110's going filled with 2 sponges each and I rotated sponge rinsing between them every other water change. Like, I couldn't see my hand sunk 3in down into a full 5g bucket after squeezing out the sponges. (I also wiped off the "slime" that would build up on the spillway which I'm now discovering was probably actually "biofloc" building up). I started out testing after water changes to make sure I didn't mini-cycle and gave up the regular testing after never finding ammonia or nitrite. That's why I intended to rinse the first foam in my sump out regularly, to remove the solids before they turn into nitrate. I figured it would help manage nitrate and prevent forming the dreaded "nitrate factory"... which always kinda seemed like a myth to me anyways.

Now, looking back, could it be some of my problems were related to never allowing the heterotrophic bacteria to really develop? maybe... Could it be that regular large water changes offset my lack of heterotrophic bacteria? Is that why problems occurred so quickly after falling just a little bit behind on w/c's?

I guess broken down to it's simplest concepts, the debate could be between allowing allowing all waste to break down to nitrate and managing the nitrate vs. managing the waste directly to prevent the nitrate from ever forming. And I guess taking my experiences into consideration I might conclude both approaches work with different tradeoffs. The first likely results in higher nitrate production but may have benefits that extend beyond simply managing nitrate. The 2nd likely keeps nitrate lowers but maybe doesn't provide the additional benefits directly, and those benefits are instead achieved indirectly through the aggressive water changing keeping nitrate <20ppm.

Anyways, it's probably about time I extract myself from this rabbit hole lol
Coming soon: 125g Malawi
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