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How do you know when a system is fully cycled and is ready for plants? I'm starting a new system from what is left of my old system( the fish and tank) in hopes it will transfer the bacteria I built up. My first system was a huge dud and had to be taken apart.


So, I am starting a new system from what I can salvage. I have the gravel and some containers...But how do you know when its time to put in plants, and how long does it usually take?


Any help offered would be fantastic! My system is tiny!(about 15 gallons between two tanks.

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Plants can go into a system right from the beginning but large plants may lack for nitrogen until the bacteria get going.  Seeds will usually be fine since they take a while before they need large amounts of nutrients.


I like fishless cycling.  To test a system between batches of fish I will often use some aged humonia (pee) but clear (non sudzing, detergentless, soapless, fragranceless) ammonia would work.  Anyway, dose the ammonia to 1 ppm and if the ammonia and nitrite level both reach 0 ppm in 24 hours.


Now if you have fish in a system and are cycling up, well plants can go in any time.  How you know when it's cycled up is by testing the water.  Normally the ammonia rises until the bacteria that take care of that show up and get established then you start seeing nitrite rise and the bacteria for that shows up and starts to establish and then nitrite will fall too.  Nitrate usually starts rising by the time you see a spike in Nitrite.


The whole process usually takes about 6 weeks.  You are cycled to your fish load when both the ammonia and nitrite consistently read 0 while you are feeding your fish an appropriate amount.

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