Aquarium Tip #4

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How to cycle your aquarium using Tetra Safe Start

What you will need:

  • A bottle of Tetra Safe Start (TSS) appropriate to the size of your tank
  • Seachem Prime or other dechlorinator.
  • API Master Liquid test kit
  • 1 gallon jug of water treated with 2 drops of Prime (or other dechlorinator) and allowed to sit for 24 hours.
  • Fish – These should be ones you want to keep, not ones to just cycle the tank. You should have enough fish to sustain the bacteria from TSS. This will depend on tank size and the type of fish you are getting. Example: 20 gallon tank is good for 1 group of 6 to 8 Long Fin Zebra or Leopard Danio, which is a perfect group to start out with.

What you will not need:

  • Bottled ammonia – This will kill the good bacteria in TSS. TSS is meant to be used with fish.
  • Ammonia Binder – Adding AmoLoc or other similar product to the tank during the cycling process will remove the ammonia needed to sustain the nitrifying bacteria.
  • Chemicals to raise the pH – Unless you are starting a cichlid tank or have pH below 7 from the tap do not add anything to alter the pH.

Getting Ready – : Fill tank with water and add filter, heater, thermometer, substrate and ornaments. Dose with Prime to remove chlorine or chloramines. Watch tank for any leaks and ensure filter is working properly.

Note: if you are using sand for a substrate, extra time may be needed for the water to clear up.

Wait 24 hours for Prime to dissipate from the water column. Dechlorinators can harm or render useless the good bacteria in TSS.

Test The Water: Using your API Liquid Kit, run tests for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. pH should be no less than 7 (anything under 7 can hinder the cycling process). Ammonia, nitrite,and nitrate should all read 0 ppm. If not then you will need to run tests on water directly from the tap.

If all tests are good then proceed to shake the bottle of TSS and add it to the tank. Always add the entire contents of the bottle. You cannot overdose.

Wait 1 hour and then slowly acclimate your fish according to this guide. (Skip this if fish are already in the tank.)

Day 1 through 14: No water changes. Doing so will stop the cycling process. If there’s any water evaporation then use some water from the 1 gallon jug of pretreated water to do a top-off.

It is very important during the 14 day cycle that you feed your fish normally. If you underfeed you risk lengthening the cycle. If you overfeed you risk the bacteria not being able to keep up with all of the ammonia, which will stop or stall the cycle. High amounts of ammonia can hinder the nitrifying bacteria.

TSS is designed to facilitate a safe and effective cycle while fish are in the tank. The water chemistry is going to be all over the place during the first week or so and will settle down during the second week. There’s no point in running any tests during the 14 day cycle unless you notice visual signs of distress or illness in your fish, which should not happen.

Day 15: Do a regular water change being careful not to disturb the substrate. Allow another week or more for the nitrifying bacteria to settle and stabilize in and on the bio-media of your filter before you begin regular gravel cleanings.