We’ve gotten into a habit of being a thorn in the sides of the “Tanked” guys, and with the recently published video above, there’s a good chance we’ll stay that way. The UK branch of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing has what they claim to be irrefutable proof that their ATM Colony bacteria dosing product works, and works so well that they can barely keep it on the shelf. To prove the product’s worth, they set up a brand new tank, stocked it, and had it cycled within 5 whole days! Amazing, if only it were true. Let me explain.
To show the firepower of Colony, these Brits set up a 550 liter aquarium (roughly 150 gallons), filled it with newly mixed saltwater (using ATM’s salt), added a couple of bags of dry sand, a bunch of dry rocks, and two huge bottles of ATM Colony. The tank’s two Fluval FX6 canister filters were put into place, and a Seneye monitor was installed to track the vital parameters (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, etc). They let the tank settle overnight, then added a moderate amount of fish, and tracked the data over a brief period of time.
After five whole days, the tank had apparently cycled fully, despite there being several fish added the very next day. So, that makes ATM’s product a wonder drug right? Well, no, not at all…and here’s why.
First off, the tank is brand new. All tanks are at some point, but moving on. They added dry, dead rock. So, no die off from natural organisms to foul up the water. Again, not a huge deal here as this is common practice these days. The same goes for the sand, which was also dry and devoid of any decaying organic matter. Add in the freshly mixed water, toss on two giant canister filters loaded with carbon, and you’re still not doing anything out of the norm, but you still have zero source of ammonia.
The fish were added on day two, but the gentleman in the video explains that they weren’t fed, or were fed such a limited quanitity per the bottle’s printed instructions. Then, after five days of being set up, the tank is done cycling, as indicated by the presence of nitrate. This would be totally a perfectly acceptable conclusion except for the fact that the Seneye shows an ammonia concentration of 0.25ppm and nitrate of 20ppm. Now, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s been a little while since I’ve had to deal with a cycling aquarium, but wouldn’t the presence of ammonia at that concentration be indicative of a cycle that hasn’t yet finished? The Seneye monitor can read ammonia down to 0.01ppm, and I use the same monitor in my established reef tank and it shows ammonia around zero, constantly.
Instead of the video showing that two huge bottles of live bacteria can tackle a cycle in 5 days, it just shows that the product isn’t as great as it’s hyped up to be. Furthermore, since there was no ammonia introduced to the tank via live rock and sand, it’s easy to assume that all of it came from the fish and what little food they received…which further shows how worthless this product truly is.
To sum up our opinions, live nitrifying bacteria…regardless of their source…are not a way to create an instantly cycled aquarium. They can help, but we still recommend going a full month or more before adding your first fish. And even then, just add fish slowly, and not all at once.