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"cycling" a planted tank

Gary J. Plano wrote:

>I want to address this issue.  I do not know where this Misnomer has
>started, but it needs to stop.  When you first start an
>aquarium.......THERE IS NO ALGAE, algae eaters eat ALGAE, at least I think
>so?? ---especially when they are younger.  I have seen and heard soo many
>people tell me how their algae eaters died 2 weeks after they bought them.
>Suppodoly, the fish store owner said, "you have to add this fish first."
>This is absurd to me as a college graduate and semi-environmentally aware
>person.   Second:  when you start an aquarium it cycles.  Algae eaters are
>verry sensitive fish and cannot handle the Ammonia & Nitrite peaks you will
>have. Get yourself a few hardy fish like zebra danios or the CHEAPEST FISH
>you can FIND.  Any good fish store that sells aquatic plants SHOULD, IMOP,
>offer to take back the 'break in' fish and also monitor the cycle for you.
>If you are serious about keeping plants you should buy your own nitrite,
>nitrate, pH, and hardness kits.  

You may or may not be semi-environmentally aware, and I believe that you
are a college graduate if you say so.  But you obviously have very limited
experience with planted tanks to make this statement.

Properly set up planted tanks do _not_ "cycle" like a normal "fish" tank.
If you've done it right, there will be _no_ measureable ammonia or nitrite
spike.  The plants use most of the available ammonia(um) before it has a
chance to enter the nitrogen "cycle".  If there is any left over, the HUGE
surface area of the plants, and the nitrifying bacteria imported with them
is more than enough to handle the rest.

As for the algae eaters, I and most others, I think, advocate adding the
algae eaters around the 2 week mark.  By this point the plants are settled
in and are starting to grow well.  If your algae eaters were well fed
before being added to the tank, they should find plenty to eat picking on
the algae as it grows.  If you're wise, you don't buy fish that are
hollow-bellied to start with, and they will have plenty of reserves.  If
you have any sense at all, you'll watch the bellies of your fish carefully,
and supplement their diet with zucchini and the like _before_ they starve
to death if they look hi\ungry and there's no observable algae.

"Cycling" a planted tank is not only unnecessary, it's ill advised unless
you enjoy algae farming.

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association