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The Beginner's Guide To Fish Keeping.
By: Maverick
With Article By Loachaholic

Fishless Cycling helps to prevent fish loss, and is highly recommended. Fishless cycling allows your tank to fully cycle before introducing your fish to your tank. If you simply set up your tank and plop your fish in, you risk losing your fish to an unstable enviroment. The ammonia and nitrites mentioned below are toxic to fish and will kill them. After reading this article, you will see why you don't want your fish in your tank while cycling.

Step-by-step Instructions to Fishless Cycling:

By: Loachaholic

1. Set up the aquarium: filters, heaters, lights and all. Be sure to dechlorinate the water.

2. Keep the filter running throughout the cycling process.

3. Provide extra aeration if possible. With an outside hang on-the-back power filter, a good way to do this is keep the water level a couple of inches lower than usual so that water falling from the filter makes a bigger splash. You can raise the water level when you are ready to add fish. If the sound of the splashing makes you nuts, don't do it. An airstone and small pump works, too.

4. Keep the temperature of the water up in the low to high 80's.

5. If you have access to materials from a SAFE source (not your fish store), see if you can get a cup of gravel, a used filter sponge, a decoration - anything that has been in there a while - and put it in your tank. {This Helps Introduce the Bacteria to Your Tank}

6. Put 3-5 drops of pure ammonia per gallon in the tank, or enough ammonia to make your test kit reads 4.

7. Test every day for a couple of weeks. When the ammonia reaches 1, add more ammonia to bring the level back to 4-5. Continue to put ammonia in the tank until the ammonia level goes to zero within 8-12 hours after the ammonia is put in. Try putting some in the morning before work/school and checking when you get home. Once the tank shows the ability to lower the ammonia level in this time interval, this means that a large population of bacteria is resident in your tank. This may take 2 weeks or even more.

8. At this point, test for nitrites. They should be VERY high. Continue to add enough ammonia each day to bring the ammonia level to 1 or 2. When the nitrites are gone for 24 hours or more, your tank is cycled.

Before you add fish adjust the heater down to a livable temperature for the fish. Do a very large water change (at least 90%): you can go to the fish store now. (Remember, only add dechlorinated water of about the same temperature to the tank)

This isn't a quick-cycle method; it still takes 3-6 weeks for the tank to cycle.

A few observations from years of cycling tanks this way:

1. The nitrite will probably reach levels that exceed the highest limit of your nitrite test. This isn't a problem, if course, because you have no fish to worry about. This will not damage your plants either.

2. The high-nitrite stage seems to last forever. It seems to me that Nitrobacter (the nitrite-consuming bacteria) grow more slowly than Nitrosomas (the ammonia-consuming bacteria).

3. When the nitrite drops, it will drop rapidly. This is the pay-off for your patience.

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