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Quick cycle for new tanks.


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So I thought I'd do a quick write up on how to "quick cycle" a new tank.

Please note:

This is generally for emergency use and I'm not recommending people just do this as a standard procedure every time, when intending to buy livestock make sure the tank they are to be housed in is fully cycle before you make your purchase.

 -Its best to always let your tanks cycle and mature naturally before adding livestock and this is especially true for shrimp.


Many of these steps are aimed at introducing BB (Beneficial Bacteria) Aswell as reducing Nh3 (Ammonia) No2 (Nitrite)  No3 (Nitrate) and heavy metals.


1) If it's a sand or gravel then grab as much established substrate from an existing tank as you can, obviously without taking too much,- you don't want to set off a cycle in the original tank! :)

2) The sponge filters I use have 2 sides so it's possible to take off one sponge from an established tank and replace it with the new sponge without upsetting the BB too much, Then use this cycled sponge in your new tank. Or if you can pinch some cycled filter media like bio balls, ceramic rings etc,- If you absolutely can't take these from your existing tanks then just squeeze all the "mulm" from the dirty sponges into your new tank.

3) This step IMO is not really as beneficial as the others as only very small amounts of BB actually live in the water itself, but I'll add it.         Use as much aquarium water from an existing tank as you can.

4) Get some Seachem stability or similar product, I think aquaone make one called "Bio". You can't really overdose this stuff, but having said that I wouldn't recommend wasting it.-There is dormant BB in this product that activates when introduced to Nh3 etc. I guess if your test kit reads any level of Nh3 you could dose again.

5) Whether you use tap or RO, Get a decent water dechlorinator that specifically states "Reduces Ammonia, nitrite and heavy metals" You can dose this at the recommended dose daily (not to dechlorinate) to reduce all the nasties.

6) Add plants and driftwood preferably from an established tank if you can, as lots of BB will hitch a ride over on the wood etc, and plants will eat up Nh3, No3 aswell as heavy metals.- I'd go with low light, low maintenance like ferns and moss etc.

7) Grab some Indian almond leaf, This does many things but mostly what we want it for is to slightly lower the ph converting toxic Nh3 into a less toxic substance Nh4 (Ammonium). Also the medicinal properties of the cappata leaf will heap reduce stress when livestock are introduced into their new environment.

8) Small daily water changes like 10-20% and try to remove as much organic matter as you go.

9) Add some mineral balls, They absorb Nh3 and release important minerals into the water that aid in shimp moulting and stabilising ph.


Dont clean the filter for atleast the first 3-4 weeks- obviously unless it's full blocked.

If you do all this as directed your tank should be safe for livestock even shrimp in about the time it takes for the water to settle and clear, however accurate testing should be performed before introducing livestock, if you have  a few days to do this it would be even better.

Once again people shouldn't go out buying shrimp and a new tank in one go at the lfs, Nor should they rely on methods like this to instantly setup a new tank every time they buy stuff.

Cycling a tank naturally over time is a safer, better way to go, and lots of these tips can still be used to help speed up this process aswell.

These tips can even just be used for reducing Nh3 etc in a problem tank.

Quick product review:

The API test kits are fine for general use despite their apparent bad rap, you just have to shake the heck out of them as per the instructions. Although with the No3 test, its really hard to tell a difference between like 10ppm, 20ppm and 40ppm, they are all pretty much the same shade of orange- yet the kit goes right to 160? Lol why? like if it's over 40 you know there major issues, they should have instead focused on a more accurate low range, eh just my 2c.

Hope this helps some people :)








Edited by Zebra
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Good ideas there Zebra.

And good write up.

I have fully cycled tanks in 8 days from all new gear. And the best safest short cut I found really great is Dr Tims nutrifing bacteria and ammonium chloride.

Dr Tims nutrifing bacteria is live bacteria (not the dormant type) and works immediately converting NH3/NH4 to NO2 then NO3 in only a few hours.

Absolutely awesome stuff. If you haven't tried it definitely give that a go. If you had to mix your method and Dr Tims it would be an absolute winner.



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Cheer mate. 

I haven't heard of that doc tims BB yet, but tbh there is only very standard lfs in my town so I have to order most things online, thanks for the recommendation I'll have to check it out.

Seachem stability actively works in about the same time it takes for the water to settle, I did full tests while setting up to make sure cause I actually thought the product was snake oil to start lol. But yeah great stuff.

I don't use any chloride based pruducts in my freshwater setups (unless that's the active in my dechlorinator- it's aquaone not like it's gonna say lol) when I add calcium it's always as a chelate, sulphate or carbonate form even though CACi2 is more readily available cheaper.

The best most useful shortcut I've found is introducing live BB via cycled filter media, and plants :)



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Seachem is great stuff but here in Western Australia is really hard to find lately and that's why I gave Dr Tims a try.
But on my next set up I'm definitely going to give your method a try.
Thanks bud [emoji106]

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11 hours ago, Zebra said:

The best most useful shortcut I've found is introducing live BB via cycled filter media, and plants

No arguing about that. BB from a cycled, mature filter is best. 

But I can vouch for Dr Tim's One and Only as an alternative if you don't have an existing mature filter. It works pretty quick. It does say no waiting needed, but I'd still be cautious and test before adding livestock to a new tank.

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A much safer procedure than I've done...

I've cycled and even re-cycled tanks, no biggie. Then decided to get some more shrimp and had plans on putting them in an already cycled and set up tank with other shrimp. (different species, so no mixing of colors)

Almost last minute, I decided to tear down and redo a 10g I literally had just sitting... it was cycled at one point in time, but the filter was removed and the tank just sat there.... it did have an air stone going for a while, but that was eventually turned off. (moved tanks around, didn't set it back up)

I rinsed everything, including the sand, threw in a new sponge filter (well, the plastic pieces were old, but the sponge itself new - everything was dry), got the water parameters set within a certain range and tossed in some Tetra SafeStart+.


It was less than a week later when the shrimp arrived, and when I tested the water parameters, the only thing that showed up was Nitrates.


I started with 16 shrimp, I now have 18 shrimp (I don't know where the +2 came from... and I'm not blind! lol), and two recently became berried. In about 2 weeks, they will have been here for 2 months. (feels longer than that) With the way I set the tank up, I had minimal water evaporation and when I checked the parameters prior to doing a water change this past week (the first, since coming here), the TDS was up a little, the KH was up a smidge, but otherwise, it's remained stable. The tests I did in-between have been fine. The shrimp came from Caridina parameters and have been doing fine in the lower end of Neocaridina. (no buffering substrate and I mix two different sources of tap water for the tanks)



As far as the API test kits go... yeah, they can be annoying! I'm almost out of the Nitrate test, and need to order a new kit... I've heard great things about the Sera and Nutrafin test kits, although they can easily be 3x as much as the API test kit. The results are apparently much easier to read!

Edited by Zoidburg
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I had to set a tank for the few carbon rili I had left. The shrimps were passing away one by one in a tank where I could not find any reason why they were doing so...

I an emergency rescue, I dressed a new tank, 30liters, new soil, plants, new sponge filter, and I dosed some Bio Nitrivec (SERA).  2 hours after, I moved the shrimps in that new tank, and crossed fingers...

That was a success. Not only the shrimps stop quiting, but they start again breeding after few weeks, and now I have recovered a full healthy colony from the very few I had left (3 females 4 males). They are about 400 now ^^)

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Great write up Zeb. I used Dr Tims, some mulm and a cycled sponge filter when setting up a new tank with Amazonia soil - which is notorious for leaching ammonia when new. I think it helped as the tank was cycled within a couple of weeks verses around 3-4 weeks using on the cycled sponge filters and mulm. I've heard reports of Amazonia taking several months to cycle from scratch, so both methods are definitely improvements

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Cheers mate,

Ill definitely have to check out dr tims.

yeah for sure, from my experience the old Amazonia releases a lot more Nh3 then the newer stuff they make, the newer Amazonia is supposed to be closer to like black earth or kaito, though the quality dropped off massively and the product now includes sticks and rocks lol I'll show you some from the Ada from my 4ft I've picked bark and all sorts out of there, it's totally whack.- it wasn't just one random bag either I bought a whole box.

Edited by Zebra
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Yeah mine floated out plenty of bark and sticks too when I flooded it. Definitely rock in there too. 

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The stuff my CRS are on is great, it's from Subscape Melb. It's called "Kaito" has a really strong ph buffering capacity, and is very very clean to use, I've added it to filled tanks (without livestock) and almost as clean as gravel.

-glass is dirty in the pic lol


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On 5/28/2017 at 2:10 AM, Zebra said:

This is generally for emergency use and I'm not recommending people just do this as a standard procedure every time, when intending to buy livestock make sure the tank they are to be housed in is fully cycle before you make your purchase.

Why do you say it's for emergency use?  From a biological point of view, the bacteria likely don't care how long you waited!  It's just about numbers - if you can get enough bacteria into your new tank in the right places and keep them alive, you're set.  I've never waited more than 3-4 days for any tank other than the very first one (which had to go the long way since I didn't have a ready source of bacteria to transfer).  I've not had a problem with mini-cycles or incomplete cycles either. 

In addition to your tips : if you are intending to start up a new tank, you can seed a brand new filter with "cycled" filter mulm and leave it in a fully functional, cycled tank to settle.  From personal experience, a week is plenty.  Then your new filter should basically be ready to go and can be treated as a "cycled" filter.  Keep in mind, adding livestock slowly (over the course of a few days/weeks, depending on what you're adding) will help ensure the filter keeps up and grows into its new role.  Of course, you do need to keep the bacteria's home in moving water (keep them fed; that is - don't take it out and leave it somewhere to dry up for a while and come back expecting it to still have a full colony of bacteria) and avoid other things that can kill them off. 

Of course - some substrates need time to settle, but this mostly applies to the specialized ones that will release stuff, including ammonia as mentioned, for a few weeks to a couple of months.  I've mostly avoided them because they take forever to detox (I'm just not that patient!) and are expensive without actually being significantly better than other options (in my opinion).

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I go on to say it's not just for emergency use and can speed up cycling any tank, however I just don't recommend doing something like this every time you buy new livestock as its still kind of irresponsible compared to waiting a week or so aswell as these steps.

Still 3-4 days is a long time compared, this write up is About making a new tank shrimp safe like within the hour.

Cheers, I did include adding filter mulm in a step. 

Your correct, normally with fish they should be introduced slowly over a week or more, however this is for a situation where you don't have that time or luxury, plus shrimp produce very little to no Nh3 or n02 so given your not dumping hundreds in there and you continue to dose BB and Nh3 reducer it's generally all g.

In short It's just common sense to have the tank setup and cycled before you buy livestock especially shrimp, but sometimes things happen and you need to set up new tanks fast. :)

Like diatoms for example, they can cover plants on initial setup and are much harder to clean in a tank with livestock.

As far as soil goes, With some species it's just easier and more stable to use aquasoil and if we want to keep these we have to do so, As trying to artificially lower ph and keep it stable without soil is a bit of a hassle from my experiences.

Matuva posted above using similar methods to instantly cycle a tank with new soil for carbon rilli and reported great success, and that's pretty awesome. Using the Sera bio product.

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