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Can I start my cycle without my substrate? I am still waiting on my substrate but I'd really like to begin the fishless cycle. Also do the lights need to be on during a fishless cycle?
 

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No lights for the cycle...

I fishlessly cycled my filters in a tub without substrate... that way all the bacteria (okay most) is in your filter. As you add substrate some will migrate there as well I'm sure...

Short answer, start without your substrate.
 

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The cycle depends upon bacteria. One, nitrosococcus, converts ammonia to Nitrite, and another, Nitrospira, converts Nitrite to Nitrate. These bacteria are present in the air, and will colonize your aquarium when the proper food source (ammonia or Nitrite) is present. They grow best on glass, gravel, or a filter medium, like a sponge. Without a substrate, it may be slower, but it should work.

Try it! It can't hurt! And let us all know how it works.
 

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Hi rain87,

As The Novice noted it may go a bit slower but will work. I cycled my tank without substrate. It took longer than expected and longer than it has taken me in the past. However this may not be attributable to the lack of substrate as this tank was much larger than the tanks I had cycled in the past.

No reason to wait, start now, if it takes longer it still should be quicker than waiting until you add substrate.

On a side note, I would wait until you have substrate to add your fish, and, make sure to test at least 24 hrs after adding substrate to make sure it did not create any unusual spikes. In addition, don’t forget to turn off your filters when adding substrate with water in the tank.

What type of fish to your plan to keep? (Just out of curiosity)

Thanks,
Matt
 

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With or without substrate doesn't make any difference as far as cycling time IME. Bare tanks cycle just fine as just as fast. Cycle the tank, add the substrate whenever convenient. It's not a major disruption.

Just my .02
 

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few thoughts - yes, you can cycle without a substrate but I am not so sure I agree with Prov356 that
Bare tanks cycle just fine as just as fast
we tried that in the lab using 3 brands of popular hang on tank filters and it took a lot longer to cycle compared to adding at least a thin layer of gravel to the bottom of tank. I will admit it probably depends on your filter and the media in it but I am not convinced a no substrate tank will cycle just as fast.

Also the amount of nitrifiers in the air is very low. Yes, if you have a fish room or a tank next to new tank and aeration you can get nitrifiers in the air but the vast majority of nitrifiers are in your water system not the air
 

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DrTim's said:
the vast majority of nitrifiers are in your water system not the air
That's very interesting. I have often wondered where the bacteria come from if you don't speed things up by buying a bottle full of them from DrTim's. :D

If they come with the tap water, I guess that also shows they might not be as sensitive to chlorine as some folks would have you believe. Sure, it can't be bad to rinse your media with tank water when doing filter maintenance. However, in my experience washing them under tap water hasn't hurt my setup either, and it's a lot more convenient.

I guess that a fishless cycle can take four weeks shows how few of the bacteria come into the tank just through tap water, but if any survive the long ride with the chlorine, a short exposure to it can't be that harmful for a healthy colony.

Sorry for taking this a bit off topic :oops:
 

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I will admit it probably depends on your filter and the media in it but I am not convinced a no substrate tank will cycle just as fast.
All I can speak to is my fishroom tanks, and my bare tanks cycle just as quickly as the tanks with sand. I'm not sure what a layer of substrate is going to do to enhance cycling time with anything other than a UG filter. Few here are going to use gravel, so I assumed the OP is using sand. Doesn't make sense, at least to me, that it would take longer. Unless the bacteria first settle and colonize the substrate, and can get going there more quickly. But then why wouldn't they just colonize the bare bottom? Maybe there's a reason. I seed my tanks and they take 7-10 days pretty much no matter what I do in regards to temp or anything else. It's pretty consistent. So, I think we can say if they're going to use gravel, lab results have shown shortened cycling times by having the gravel in place during cycling. But, like you say, unless you expand testing to cover different filters, etc. we don't really know for sure that the shortened times were the result of the gravel. Seeding is the best way to shorten cycling times. If you seed a tank, the rest pretty much doesn't matter, at least not significantly.
 

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I would agree that substrate shouldn't matter. I cycled my filters in a bare wal-mart tote...

I would agree that gravel probably does provide a home for bacteria but as long as you have a good filter with plenty of surface area you shouldn't need the gravel.
 

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prov356 said:
I'm not sure what a layer of substrate is going to do to enhance cycling time with anything other than a UG filter.
This is pure speculation, but it could be that the sand contains bacteria and helps to seed the tank. This should only matter if you don't seed from another source. It could also be that bacteria colonize different surfaces at different rates. Glass is a particularly smooth surface, and it might take longer for bacteria to establish a hold on a large glass surface than on sand.

prov356 said:
Seeding is the best way to shorten cycling times.
That has been my experience as well.
 

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One thing that does help speed the process, im my experience, is to use some water vacuumed from the gravel of a "seasoned" tank. So if you have a running tank, use some of that water, or, alternatively, move a bio-sponge from the seasoned tank to the new tank. (Some pet stores will even help with this).
 

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The Novice said:
One thing that does help speed the process, im my experience, is to use some water vacuumed from the gravel of a "seasoned" tank. So if you have a running tank, use some of that water, or, alternatively, move a bio-sponge from the seasoned tank to the new tank. (Some pet stores will even help with this).
That's one way to "seed a tank".
 

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The Novice said:
One thing that does help speed the process, im my experience, is to use some water vacuumed from the gravel of a "seasoned" tank. So if you have a running tank, use some of that water, or, alternatively, move a bio-sponge from the seasoned tank to the new tank. (Some pet stores will even help with this).
This is what they're referring to above as 'seeding', and you're right, it does speed things up significantly.
 

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I believe Dr.Tim stated in another thread, there's virtually no BB in the water itself.
 

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Beneficial Bacteria
 

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Glaneon said:
I believe Dr.Tim stated in another thread, there's virtually no BB in the water itself.
Hi Glaneon,

Based on my knowledge you are correct. However, I do see credence to The Novice's point because he mentioned using water vacuumed from the gravel. Although I have not tried this, I would think by vacuuming a small amount of water from the gravel you would suck up some BB and ammonia. Therefore, a small amount of water sucked through the gravel may give you a kick start to your cycle.

That said, media from an established filter would be a much more effective way to seed a new tank.

Again no experience, but I do think this is a valid idea. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

Thanks,
Matt
 

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Yes, I would agree that you could get BB from vaccuuming gravel into the other tank.
 
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