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Live bacteria from a bottle or from another established tank? Sounds like you have no choice, so proceed but test daily to monitor for ammonia spikes.
 

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You are not adding the fish until you get back. That is when you need to test daily. I would not waste my time/money on commercial bacteria. If you get ammonia after you add the fish then use the internal filter.
 

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As Deeda said, you are probably OK. But nothing more you can do now. Enjoy your trip.
 

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The ideal drip system will use well water (no chlorine) or have filtration to remove chlorine before the drip goes into the tank. Although I can see if the drip is slow enough the "bacteria" might be able to process it fast enough.
 
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I squeeze my sponges from filters with every cleaning...have not had a problem so far (since 2005). Strum is right, the "bacteria" once well established are pretty hardy.
 

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Hmmm. I do have some tanks that have only the sponge as media and I squeeze vigorously...no problem. I imagine the bacteria growing on the tank/decor surfaces could be compensating.
 

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You want to see the nitrates increase over time as this is evidence of bacteria waste and health.
 

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I would not feed and keep changing water to keep ammonia under 1ppm. Do you have other established filters you can use?
 
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Don't feed at all. Malawi are good for 30 days without food. Hopefully your bacteria will kick in before that.

What media you have already added is not processing the ammonia. If you don't have other media available, don't worry, but worth checking.
 

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I would skip another day to be sure and then begin feeding sparingly....1X daily and only what they can eat in 30 seconds.
 

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Ongoing better to do a PWC than dose with chemicals. You can check 1X daily instead of every 4 hours.
 

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I would not feed until ammonia is 0 for 2 days in a row.
 

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1X daily with one fasting day/week is plenty. Don't feed double the amount just because you are feeding 1/2 as often. What they can eat in 30 seconds. OK to feed now.
 

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Water changes do not harm the beneficial bacteria. If nitrate has been accumulating as it should when the "bacteria" are healthy, there is no reason to skip or delay the water change. You might skip vacuuming the substrate or scraping the glass or cleaning the decor however.
 
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