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Thread: Cycling ADA Substrate for Planted and Shrimp Only Tank

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    Shrimpy Lover hyoushoku's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Cycling ADA Substrate for Planted and Shrimp Only Tank

    For all these years, I have been hearing it takes almost two months to cycle ADA substrate. However, it always took me only a month or less to cycle them. Just nice I was building a couple of new tanks recently, therefore I decided to do a write-up on what I always do during cycling process to ensure the success. If anyone else has their unique method too, please do share.

    Day 1
    1. Pour in the base substrate layer into the tank. This layer is usually consist of Power Sand, Penac W/P or any other preferred material.
    2. Sprinkle bacteria food and / or vegetable / wheat powder over the base substrate.
    3. Pour in the preferred ADA substrate (Amazonia / Africana / Malayan)
    4. Sprinkle water generously over the substrate until all are soaking wet. See from the sides to make sure even the bottom layer are wet too. Leave them for an hour or more. This will ensure all the dusts are wet and will not float up when you add water.
    5. Fill the tank with tap water slowly to prevent disturbing the substrate. It is fine if you have hard tap water during cycling.
    6. Drain all the water till 3 to 5cm above substrate.
    7. Repeat step 5 and 6 until water is 90% clear then add in the anti-chlorine of your choice.
    8. Use a fine cotton-base fish net to scoop all the substrate and dirty floating up to the water surface.
    9. Use a sponge to clean the glass of the tank from all the substrate glass.
    10. Time to power-up the technical equipments. DO NOT TURN ON THE LIGHTS until 2 weeks later. Turn on your filter and turn up your heater to 28 degree celsius / centigrade. Do note you should have all final filter media, except Purigen, in your filter system. It is best you squeeze in some (as much as possible) activated carbon into the filter to control the ammonia production rate and also any other harmful substances. Personally, I think controlling the ammonia production rate is relatively critical. The best cycling is to have the bacteria reproduce steadily and still live but not having a boom in population then die off that causes gunk that waste the filter media real estate.
    11. ADA substrate usually buffer the water below pH 6. Thus, if your water is less than 4 dKH, you will need to add buffer. You can either use baking soda or potassium carbonate. I usually use potassium carbonate, I'll explain why in next step.
    12. Usually, the lower the pH, the most oxidative is the water, which retard or inhibit microbe growth. I think this is one of the major contributor for slow cycling. As such, I will put significant amount of antioxidant into the water. Any potassium, calcium, magnesium and ascorbate salt (ascorbate is less acidic than ascorbic acid) will do the trick. Personally, I will add a bit of everything. Since step 11 I already added potassium salt, I will just need to add the rest. Calcium and magnesium salts are easily available from those aquatic plant Trace Elements fertilizer (make sure it is very low in copper), hence I just use my existing trace fertilizer. For ascorbate, I am using power form food grade Calcium Ascorbate.
    13. Mix 1 teaspoon of wheat / vegetable powder (for 60L of tank water) with tap water in a separated container. Pour the mixture into the tank and let it scatter and settle in the substrate top. If you have Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) in hand, you can add a bit into the mixture and let it sit under light for 20 minutes than pour into the tank. H2O2 will oxidize the wheat or vegetable powder and causes it to breakdown much faster.
    14. [Optional Step] Since shrimp loves microbes as snack and protein source, I will want to breed as many different kinds of microbes as possible. Thus, I usually will add in those off-the-shelves bacteria culture during cycling. For my case, I use Stability. The reason I use it is I had proven my picky rascals love to eat the bacteria in it.
    15. [Optional Step] Adding other types of bacteria food. This includes off-the-shelves type or organic mineral powder.

    Day 2
    1. Add 1/2 teaspoon (60L tank water) of the wheat / vegetable powder into the tank.
    2. Add antioxidant compounds same as Day 1 step 12. For the amount to add, ascorbate will be about 5ppm and trace elements will be about 1.5 to 2 times of the fertilizer recommended minimum dosage.

    Day 3
    Same as Day 2

    Day 4
    1. Take a piece of coarse sponge from your existing tank and put into your new tank filter (put it in the place where nearest to the inlet of the filter). Coarse sponge is the best as you can see the bacteria colony is built across the holes and water easily blow the bacteria out. If this is your first tank, you may able to get from your friend or get / buy from your LFS.
    2. [Optional; Do this step only you have those 100 / 200 micron filter pad / sock] Take out your dirty filter media in existing tank and wash it with the new tank. This will provide more food to bacteria and seed more different types of microbes to the substrate. Do note that bacteria boom will appear once you do the washing (proven that are enough bacteria food in water column) and should be cleared within a day.

    Day 5
    1. Same as Day 2
    2. If you are planning to put drift wood and rocks into the tank, this is the time to put them in for cycling and seasoning.

    Day 6
    1. Same as Day 2
    2. If you had placed drift wood in, you should be able to see tannin and Humic acid leeched into water column (water turns yellow). If yes, your pH should have crashed. Don't change the water, instead put more pH buffer and antioxidant in to bring up the pH and bring down the Redox. Let the activated carbon to clear the water slowly.
    3. Algae will start to develop from now. Black out the whole tank with black paper.

    Day 7 to 13
    1. Same as day 2.
    2. Monitor pH and don't let it fall below 5.8. Add more buffer and antioxidant as per needed.
    3. Back and recuperate for the big job later.

    Day 14
    By this time, you should able to feel the tank wall and filter media has a nice coat of slime (bio film) with your hand and the filter hose has off-white gunk inside. This is shows your cycling is almost done. Do not clean your filter or hose yet.
    1. Remove the blackout paper.
    2. Siphon the gravel. This will remove any dirt that clog the substrate and prevent water circulating in it.
    3. Drain as much water as possible.
    4. If this is a planted tank or you are planning to put some plant, moss and / or Marino, this it the time to put them in.
    5. Fill the tank with tap water.
    6. Drain the tank water till 3 to 5 cm above substrate.
    7. Repeat step 4 and 5 at least 3 time until the water is cleared from the dirt that was caused from disturbing the substrate. At the same time, this will remove most of the stuffs added during past weeks.
    8. Fill the tank with the final type of water, such as remineralized RO water, filtered water or just normal dechlorinated tap water.
    9. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of wheat / vegetable powder with tank water in a separated container and spray it onto bare surface of substrate by using pipette or syringe. For planted tank, please make sure the powder does not stick to your plant.
    10. Turn the heater down to 26 degree Celsius.
    11. Take out the activated carbon and wash in dechlorinated water and put back into the filter.
    11. Turn on your filter.

    Day 15
    1. [If you are using CO2] Measure the pH level. You will need the base water pH value when performing the initial CO2 adjustment. Turn on your CO2 system.
    2. Turn on your light but ensure to dim it to only 60% of your final lighting brightness. If your light can't be dimmed, put it higher.
    3. [Planted Tank] Dose your fertilizer according to your preferred method.
    4. [Shrimp Only Tank] If you are planning to use your moss or Marino to absorb ammonia and nitrate, you will need to dose plenty of potassium and phosphate. If you are feeding your shrimp with American and European shrimp food, don't dose phosphate first. Most fish and shrimp food from US and EU contains phosphate additive. For Japanese brand of fish and shrimp food, it does not have significant amount of phosphate additive and you definitely have to dose.

    Note: The myth of ADA substrate leech fertilizer on killing shrimp is totally not true. If it is leeching nitrate, then I will never have to dose much nitrate but in actual fact, I am dosing 3 to 5ppm per day of Urea and Nitrate. If it is leeching trace elements, just FYI trace elements will precipitate or combine with something and disappear very quickly especially in newly setup tank that has high Redox.

    Day 16
    1. Dose the fertilizer.
    2. Spray wheat / vegetable powder mixture into bared substrate.
    3. Remove any algae appears.
    4. Take out the activated carbon from the filter. If you are planning to use Purigen, this is the time to put it in.

    Day 17 to 18
    Repeat Day 16 step 1 to 3.

    Day 19
    1. Turn the heater / chiller to 24 degree Celsius.
    2. Now is the time to put in the first few shrimps. Usually, I will put in Amano shrimp first. Reason is that they are hardier than sensitive cardina but less hardy than Neo. At the same time, it will clean substrate and algae for you. Don't use your existing Amano. Buy a few young Amano from your LFS. This because Amano from LFS is more stress and less well fed than your existing. You will need the young one is to monitor their growth and health. I will explain later.
    3. Repeat Day 16 step 1 to 3.

    Day 20
    1. Repeat Day 16 step 1 to 3.
    2. Feed the Amano like you feed your Carolina or Neo.
    3. Monitor for Amano's growth and molting (when you see discarded shell)

    Day 21 & later
    Repeat steps in Day 20 until you see Amano molt and grow substantially. You need new and young Amano to monitor this. Existing Amano will not exhibit this behavior. Change 20 to 40% of water every week.

    Once your Amano is doing well and your substrate darken significantly, it is time to add your actual shrimp. Try to add 10 every week or minimum 3 days. For me, I usually move 10 for 3 days and monitor for any stress behavior, if no then I will move another 10 within 3 days. After a week or so if no shrimp exhibit sign of stress, I will move entire colony over.

    Hope this helps.

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    Solid, well-detailed write up. If I ever decide to use that substrate I will certainly refer back to this post in the future.

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    Let me know the result if you ever try it.

    Actually, this method should work for any substrate that will buffer the water low in pH. Thus, it should be applicable to most shrimp sand or soft water planted substrate too.

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    Are you adding any trace elements ? What kind of ?
    How much potassium and phosphate do you add per liter once and weekly? What is the safe dose for potassium and phosphate?

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    Yes, I add trace because of my plants. I'm using ADA Brighty Green Step 3 plus my own homemade organic/chelated mineral mix.

    During cycling, I do not add any plant fertilizer but I do add the homemade organic/chelated mineral mix via auto-feeder and it is about 0.5g per day.

    I dose fertilizer daily via dosing pump from 2 hours before lights on till lights off. Below are the amount I dose every day for my 120L tank:
    1. ADA Special Light (NPK) - 19ml
    2. Seachem Nitrogen - 3ml
    3. Seachem Potassium - 4ml
    4. ADA Step 3 - 14ml (distribute across 24hrs. I am using much higher dose during first couple of months until the REDOX is stabilized)
    5. Seachem Iron - 2ml (12 hrs once and away from the period dosing ADA Special Light)
    6. Seachem Flourish Excel - 3ml
    7. Home-made organic/chelated mineral mix - 0.25g

    My above dosing regime is consider quite high dosage. It has to be used in conjunction with 20ppm CO2 injection. If yours is not planted tank or not injecting CO2, please use much lower, which probably 1/4 of them. In addition, I'm not feeding commercial food and I have zero phosphate introduced into the tank and I have to bias 20 - 50% more phosphate. Hence, if you are feeding commercial food, especially from US or EU, you should reduce the amount of phosphate dosage accordingly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hyoushoku View Post
    Yes, I add trace because of my plants.
    6. Seachem Flourish Excel - 3ml
    Can you clarify what exactly do you add, Seachem Flourish or Seachem Excel ?
    How much water do you change in a week?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vadim Art View Post
    Can you clarify what exactly do you add, Seachem Flourish or Seachem Excel ?
    How much water do you change in a week?
    I add Excel. I think the full name for Excel is called Flourish Excel.

    In a week, I change either one time 20%, two time 20%, one time 40% or one time 60%. Really depending on the water condition. Most of the time will be one time 40%.

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    hyoushoku
    Do you use the Mironekuton or other mineral rocks? Which reminiralizator do you use at the moment? Why do you chose this?

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    By looking at the most mineral rocks, the mineral contain is quite imbalance in terms of the percentage and the solubility. Furthermore, the amount required to replenish the mineral lost is far more than the rock can provide. Thus, I'm not using any now. However in the past, I do use Shirakura and Borneo wild mineral rock before.

    Currently, I replenish the mineral lost via home-made organic mineral mix.

    For replenish my RO water, I am using Shirakura Liquid Mineral Ca+ for my Tibee's tanks and Seachem Equilibrium for Neo's and Tiger's tanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hyoushoku View Post

    Currently, I replenish the mineral lost via home-made organic mineral mix.
    Maybe the fact that you prepare remineralizator by yourself is the main reason for success?
    Can you tell the recipe? What is not OK with prepared solutions available in shops? What do you think about different sources of calcium? What is the best? Is it possible to use bio-calcium (Tropic Marin Bio-Calcium)?

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