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My 800gallon system is now ready for cycling.  However, I'm not clear on how to go about figuring the amount of ammonia to initially add to begin this process.  Any help would be appreciated.

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Don't get me started on the goldfish thing....I started this wonderful Aquaponic journey Sept 8.  Many posts, stress, freaking out, blah blah blah....

Meanwhile the grandkids are all involved in Papi's new passion but they want some fish.  I had an old 10 gallon aquarium in the attic so got it out and cleaned it up.  I take the four little ones (6, 5, and two 3 yr olds) to Petco.  They each picked out their goldfish.  Then it was "I want the Sponge Bob House", "I want the Gary the Snail", "I want Sponge Bob", and and and...

Then they needed plants so the fish would be happy..

Back in the day everyone used under gravel filters.  I guess they've decided that they're not as good so you need one of those power filters.

Then of course you need the grow light for the $35 worth of plants so they don't die...

Microbe Lift Nite-Out to help with the cycling...

Everything all set up and the fish are happy.

Day3 Fish #1 dies.  Ran out and got a replacement before I was found out.  It was pretty easy finding an identical replacement.

Day 4 Fish #2 dies.  It was a white comet with a red "blob" on it's head.  Finding an identical replacement not so easy.  The only thing that even closely resembled it was a "fancy" fantail at 20 times the price of the original.  Completely different body type but the colors were spot on.  The explanation for the change was that it "went to the spa and they made it really pretty"...

Day 6 this one died....No replacement.  Nothing has been mentioned.

We're now at Day 10 and everything has settled down.  The ammonia is at 0, the nitrites are close to 5ppm  and the nitrates are around 20ppm.

So, this little 10 gallon set up has cost me nearly as much as my IBC Aquaponics system  and has aged me 10 years..

Oh yeah, now they're constipated and not pooping too much so they're on a green pea diet.....

Chip Pilkington said:

A few goldfish would be is just as effective and he won't spend weeks chasing ammonia levels up and down with water changes. Nature does a wonderful job with this process, but then again...you don't get to fiddle....

LOL, yea when people who have been doing display aquarium for decades find out about aquaponics and how they can get out of doing water changes and grow fish without needing to vac the gravel every couple weeks etc.......  They get real excited.  Now perhaps the aquaponics system fish tank with fluctuating water levels and no pretty gravel doesn't quite compare to that display aquarium in the living room but it sure takes less work to keep it working well.

If you decide to cycle up with goldfish, that is certainly an option.  Just keep in mind that cycling with fish can be slower and if you have to do water changes to keep the fish alive, it will be even slower and if you are stressing about keeping the goldfish alive cycling with fish can be stressful.  I prefer getting a system cycled up fishless because I don't like to stress about killing fish when I don't have to or stress about the ammonia and nitrite levels getting too high and having to decide if I should water change to keep the fish alive etc.

Now matter how you do it though.  It takes time for the bacteria to get well established.  If you think you are cycled up because your initial ammonia and nitrite spikes have subsided, the truth is you are only about 2/3rds of the way cycled.  If you add fish at that point, you need to keep monitoring your ammonia and nitrite and pH levels carefully and base you feed amounts on the water quality usually for the next month or so as you slowly up the feed to the appropriate amount.  After that you might only monitor pH on a daily basis and just check the ammonia nitrite and nitrate once a week or so or whenever something seems off.  Keep monitoring pH often since it can start to drop suddenly as the bacteria finally use up all the buffering and you may need to buffer some more.

Well, first, I didn't mean "goldfish" literally. I have always cycled with small Koi and I never lose fish. Second, the point was to use "fish" at the start, not after a failed or incomplete attempt at fish-less cycling.

I haven't actually noticed much difference in total cycle time between methods. What I do notice is that there are some common mistakes people make when cycling with fish. Many start with too many fish. There are dozens of excuses - "I could only buy 100 at a time" or "they're so small, it's the same as half as many bigger fish" or whatever. It's unfortunate that folks can't relax, let nature take it's course and most important: resist the urge to prematurely add fish, potions and whatever they can get their hands on in the process.

I'm sure I'll get lynched over my next comments, but experience has shown me it's dead on. Of course there are exceptions - some folks "get it" right off and more power to them...

As to fish-less cycling, I can't say that I've run across a more consistent path to failure for many new Apers. Between water changes and salting and then chasing pH up and down, it's just too much for many new folks to take on early in their AP experience. I'm sure this will rile many folks up, but I believe it's irresponsible to recommend or teach fish-less cycling to newbies. Heck, most haven't even purchased, much less learned to properly use their Master kits at that point.

Cycling with a conservative number of hearty fish (like Koi) is a great way to learn (both technical knowledge and just as important, patience), as well as be successful as they enter this interesting little hobby.

Sorry - don't mean to offend, but thread after thread, month after month, site after site has shown some truth in what I'm saying.

Thank you TC for stating again that extremely important fact - AP systems are not aquariums and most aquarium practices will adversly impact your AP system.

You are right Chip.   There really isn't much difference in cycle time between methods (and the ways to "speed up cycling" really don't do all that much to speed it up either, I guess people just like to feel they are doing something pro-active and that is a big part of the problem.)  It's the stress involved when people will as you have noticed, almost always get too many fish to cycle up sanely with fish.  And whether you are cycling with fish or not, you really should get the test kit before you add anything to your system.

I always recommend getting the test kit before you even add water so that when you do finally get to add water you can run your baseline water tests to start learning about your source water.

Anyway, the whole problem with people doing things like chasing pH up and down and doing water changes etc really has nothing to do with cycling with or without fish.  It is usually people trying to rush the process of feeling they should be able to DO something to fix it instead of letting the eco-system establish itself.

You are RIGHT that Patience is the most important thing people can add to make everything work better.

I agree that chasing pH is a bad idea. 

Here are a bunch of blog posts to do with pH

pH category blog posts

It isn't just aquarium practice but also hydroponics practice that can impair people's ability to let nature take it's course.

My first several systems were all cycled up fishless (the long version of fishless cycling.)

TCLynx Fishless cycling

Carrying out the extra part where you dose and then check to get the system to the point of being able to reduce the ammonia and nitrite to 0 ppm within 24 hours gives the system extra time so that when a fish load is finally added there are far fewer water quality spike issues than if you go adding the fish load after the 3-4 week mark when only the initial spikes have passed.  Because if you just cycle up a big system with only a few goldfish/koi and then turn around and stock it with 100 fingerlings, there are going to be some water quality spikes there too for the first several weeks after stocking the fingerlings and starting to feed them up.

However, I always recommend monitoring water quality closely after stocking new fish and if anything spikes STOP FEEDING until it settles back down and only up the feed slowly while monitoring water quality closely.

I'm with Chip.... fish & plants.... from day one...

And even those that "fishless" cycle... are just as likely to get the same...  "water quality spikes there too for the first several weeks after stocking the fingerlings and starting to feed them up".... anyway...

 

The best thing about cycling WITH fish.... is that it teaches you to test regularly... to ask questions... to develope an inderstanding of what's going on....

 

And to learn to sit on your hands.. not feed...(if necessary).... and to be PATIENT...

 

About the test kits.  If you purchase the API kit be sure you get the Freshwater Master Kit.  The Pond kit although close is not the same.  Experience proof, I had the pond kit and some test appear the same, but after some talks with the manufacturer (they have really good support) the swatches are different and sometimes they change the directions due to lot difference with the test chemicals.

Also if you are visually impaired, look for digital testers, they are more expensive but last a lot longer and require less "individual interpretation" (as one manufacture put on their chem kit)

Keeping in mind that not all digital testers are created equal and there are some things that get really costly to test with a digital meter.  I'm not even sure they make digital meters to test everything.

Now there are photo meters of sorts where you still use chemical re-agents in the test tubes but then you let a machine look at the color and give you a digital readout which might be appropriate if you need it really accurate and can afford it (perhaps not for backyard but instead for research or commercial.)

There is an acceptable practice (if careful and absolutely sure as to safe conditions) that can bump the cycling process along. It may have been mentioned - sorry if I missed it.

I have a small, portable filter (about 75L) that normally stay attached to my tiled koi pond. This is semi-indoor, very clean and controlled. When cycling, I will remove the filter from the pond and install it temporarily on the new system. I will also introduce some pond water (clean, clear). I have done this a number of times with no adverse effects. Once again, it's a very controlled environment.

I don't necessarily recommend the practice, but it is a valid way to speed things up a little. I'm talking days or maybe a week or so. There is absolutely some risk involved, should your source water contain a virus, pathogen or whatever. But, it is much more effective than the bottled bacteria folks try from the aquarium shops, etc. Testing, testing, testing goes without saying, as well as patience as this only speeds things up a little. Nature still has to run it's course and find the balance with the variables in play (fish, surface area for bacteria, water temps, feeding practices, etc, etc).

Hope this doesn't convolute the thread....

I have seen someone else do that.  They placed it directly under the water line so it would "clean off" into the bed.  I had someone offer their bio-filter to me before and know what can happen on a fish farm doing that, I choose not to do that.

Chip Pilkington said:

There is an acceptable practice (if careful and absolutely sure as to safe conditions) that can bump the cycling process along. It may have been mentioned - sorry if I missed it.

I have a small, portable filter (about 75L) that normally stay attached to my tiled koi pond. This is semi-indoor, very clean and controlled. When cycling, I will remove the filter from the pond and install it temporarily on the new system. I will also introduce some pond water (clean, clear). I have done this a number of times with no adverse effects. Once again, it's a very controlled environment.

I don't necessarily recommend the practice, but it is a valid way to speed things up a little. I'm talking days or maybe a week or so. There is absolutely some risk involved, should your source water contain a virus, pathogen or whatever. But, it is much more effective than the bottled bacteria folks try from the aquarium shops, etc. Testing, testing, testing goes without saying, as well as patience as this only speeds things up a little. Nature still has to run it's course and find the balance with the variables in play (fish, surface area for bacteria, water temps, feeding practices, etc, etc).

Hope this doesn't convolute the thread....

Hi John,

We're talking about two different animals here - I'm talking about using my own, well maintained and controlled system components. You are talking about a fish farm. The risk would be quite high I would guess. Apples to oranges.

I began a variation on this practice 30-some years ago when cycling large aquariums. I certainly didn't invent the practice, but I was one of many who would move gravel from a mature tank to a new one to aid in the cycling process.

In an AP context, this can be done with an external filter (you all use them, right?), a GB (when I started my second system, I swapped a GB from the old to the new) or I've heard discussion on PAP of people sharing filter media.

Once again, caution, discretion and this may not be for you. I just wanted to qualify my previous comments as to NOT being able to speed the process a little. I have established systems, so I do not need to look outside. If you had a friend who managed their systems well, it MIGHT be something to consider.

Sorry again, another partial reader.  I forgot that aquaponics was the marrying of aquaculture ( what I did for a living and have a master degree in) and hydroponics ( what my neighbor does to grow those strange smelling plants)  Exception being here was we took our tank waste, solids water and they were use to fertilize fields.  HD fish farming is no different than Packing a tank with Tilapia, the difference is collection of the waste and what is done with it.  Did not realize you ever inspected the farm or my aquaculture facilities in college.  And yes I have freaking goldfish and my ammonia is too high and ph is 8 and Nitrites are 0, Nitrates are 2, my cuttings are rooting and seeds are sprouting and it has been running for 7 weeks total.

Again my apologies for opening my freaking mouth!

Chip Pilkington said:

Hi John,

We're talking about two different animals here - I'm talking about using my own, well maintained and controlled system components. You are talking about a fish farm. The risk would be quite high I would guess. Apples to oranges.

I began a variation on this practice 30-some years ago when cycling large aquariums. I certainly didn't invent the practice, but I was one of many who would move gravel from a mature tank to a new one to aid in the cycling process.

In an AP context, this can be done with an external filter (you all use them, right?), a GB (when I started my second system, I swapped a GB from the old to the new) or I've heard discussion on PAP of people sharing filter media.

Once again, caution, discretion and this may not be for you. I just wanted to qualify my previous comments as to NOT being able to speed the process a little. I have established systems, so I do not need to look outside. If you had a friend who managed their systems well, it MIGHT be something to consider.

Relax big guy. Absolutely nothing I have said was meant to offend you. I do think it's interesting that you are getting so sensitive over the discussion.

First, you are not the only "Aquaculture" guru on the block. Here in Asia, there are fish farms on every corner. Not only have I toured dozens of facilities and commercial operations (some good, many quite bad)and purchased fish from some of these farmers, my in-laws farm both Tilapia (Blah Nin) and eel-tailed catfish (Blah Duk). Let me also say that claiming fish farming and AP are no different is a HUGE exageration. Outside of fish and H2O, there are few similarities in what and how things happen. Water management, waste management, circulation, environmental factors, etc, etc, etc, differ greatly with our fun little hobby. It would be interesting to see pic of your farm....

Back to the original point, exposing a closed AP system to who-knows-what's in the fish farm environment would be a very risky practice, which you wisely chose to avoid. I think we are on the same page here. One of the big selling points of AP is you remove all of those potential organisms and contaminants, right?

Anyway, I'm sorry you took my well intended post personally, I meant no offense.

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