Aquarium Dose Chart & Instructions - TLC Products - for Aquatic Systems -

Aquarium Dose Chart & Instructions

Important! Our bacterial products for aquariums come in both fresh water and salt water formulas. Be sure to purchase the correct FW or SW version for your tank! Note: Adding FW product to a SW aquarium, or vice versa, will not harm your aquarium, but it will simply waste the product. 

Dose Rate

StartSmart Instant Cycling
For StartSmart instant cycling, add 4 ounces StartSmart for every 50 gallons of aquarium volume. Overdosing is not harmful, but the standard dose rate provides the protection you need. Example. For 600 gallon tank, the required dose is: 600 gallon x 4 oz/50 gal = 48 oz. Order Now »

Aquarium Size (Gallons)StartSmart Instant Cycling Dose (Ounces)
504 oz
1008 oz
15012 oz
20016 oz

StartSmart Complete
There are 3 dose rates for StartSmart Complete.
1. Dose for Cycling New Aquarium or Problem Aquarium. Dose 1 oz per 10 gallons of aquarium volume. Tank will be cycled in 24 to 72 hours, then switch to maintenance dose.
2. Dose for Tank Maintenance and Reducing Sludge. Dose 1 oz per 40 gallons. Repeat weekly for best results, but at least once a month.
3. Dose for Water Clarity Problem. Double the dose for problems. Use 1 oz per 20 gallons weekly until issues are solved, then switch to maintenance dose.  Buy Today »

Aquarium Size (Gallons)StartSmart Complete Dose (Ounces/Week)
StartSmart Complete - New Aquarium101 oz
StartSmart Complete - Maintenance401 oz
StartSmart Complete - Problems201 oz

Aquarium Optimizer
Apply one ounce for every 25 gallons of aquarium water. Apply at least monthly to maintain a beautiful, healthy tank. For best results apply once a week. Example. For a 500 gallon aquarium, a standard dose (based on one ounce per 25 gallons) is 500 / 25 = 20 ounces.

Aquarium Size (Gallons)Aquarium Optimizer Dose (Ounces/Week)
251 oz
502 oz
753 oz
1004 oz

DeChlor & Conditioner
The recommended dose rate is one ounce per 125 gallons, or 8 ounces per every 1,000 gallons, which will be a very effective dose for over 95% of all circumstances (see below for more detail). For a large aquarium or pond of 12,000 gallons, the required dose is: 12,000 gal x 1 oz / 125 gal = 96 oz.

Water Volume (Gallons)DeChlor & Conditioner Dose 
107 drops (with eye dropper)
2518 drops (with eye dropper)
502 to 3 teaspoons (12 ml)
753 to 4 teaspoons (18 ml)
1000.8 ounces, or 24 ml, or 5 teaspoons 
2502 ounces
Note: When deciding on your DeChlor & Conditioner dose, always choose the volume of CHLORINATED or WELL WATER that you are treating. For example, if treating a brand new aquarium full of tap water, use the full volume of the aquarium to set the dose of DeChlor & Conditioner. Or if changing water, only use the volume of water you are changing, and dose DeChlor directly into the new replacement water, using the volume of replacement water to set your dose rate.


Always shake StartSmart, StartSmart Complete, and Aquarium Optimizer before use, then tighten the cap to store unused product properly. Storage & Shelf Life »

StartSmart Instant Cycling
Set up tank with all recommended items (aeration, gravel, dechlorinator, heater, lights, filters, decoration, plants, etc.) except fish. With aeration in use, allow tank to achieve desired condition (proper temperature, pH, etc). Next, shake StartSmart well, then add to your tank at the dose of 4 ounces for every 50 gallons. Begin to add fish at recommended stocking levels immediately after dosing StartSmart.

StartSmart Complete
For regular maintenance, dose weekly or at least monthly but double the dose for clarity problems until resolved. Solving long-term problems may take 4 to 8 doses. Continue manual cleaning as needed until water and tank surfaces are restored to desirable clarity. For new aquariums, set up tank as normal, dechlorinate, and add proper dose. Next, add fish at recommended population, tank will be cycled in 24 to 72 hours. Once cycled, switched to maintenance dose. For further information on how to use StartSmart Complete, download the PDF below.

How to Use StartSmart Complete How-to-Use-StartSmart-Complete.pdf
Download PDF

TLC Optimizer
Overdosing is not harmful, but best results are obtained by dosing once every week, or at least once every month, based on the volume of your aquarium. Always reapply after medication or water changes.

DeChlor & Conditioner
Treat tap water and well water with DeChlor and Conditioner whenever starting a new aquarium or pond. Always treat water before adding fish to your aquarium or pond.

The standard product dose applies in 95% of all tap water situations, and for most well water situations. The dose is based on the volume of tap or well water that you are treating. When doing a partial water exchange or fill up of a new pond, treat based on the added water only, not on the total volume in the pond or tank. 

In some unusual cases, chlorination may be particularly heavy. This may require a higher product dose to ensure water safety. If you are in an area with unusually high chlorination, double the standard dose. This also applies if you use well water with a known problem with sulfur smell or excess dissolved solids, use a double dose.


Tips and Tricks for Best Results

StartSmart and StartSmart Complete

  • We do not recommend that you use StartSmart and StartSmart Complete along with chemical-based products. If you must use a chemical-based product, such as a medication, we recommend re-dosing after the use of the medication is completed.
  • StartSmart and StartSmart Complete do not need to be refrigerated.  Store at room temperature, avoid freezing, avoid prolonged storage above 110° F for more than a few days.
  • Serious hobbyists are the most common users of StartSmart Complete.  When your fish are extremely important to you, only the best product makes sense!  
  • What is the best way to use StartSmart? Once the tank is setup to the point of placing fish (i.e., water is dechlorinated, temperature is set, etc), add the proper dose of StartSmart and add fish immediately according to standard fish stocking instructions from your local fish retailer. 
  • What effect should StartSmart have and when should those effects be seen? Any measurable ammonia levels should be gone within 24 hours and any measurable nitrites will be eliminated within 48 to 72 hours of dosing.
  • What happens if my water turns cloudy? This is due to one of 2 reasons.
    • 1st, when applying StartSmart or StartSmart Complete, there is a high concentration of bacteria that is visible in the form of a brownish cloud. This is normal. The bacteria will disperse and settle in the tank, and any cloudiness due to the application will be gone in 24 hours.
    • The 2nd reason for cloudiness in your tank will occur in tanks with severe ammonia levels. The high amount of ammonia will cause a rapid growth of the bacteria which could cause a cloudiness issue. Again, this is normal and will clear within a few days as StartSmart converts the excess ammonia.
  • Are there any other uses for StartSmart or StartSmart Complete? StartSmart is designed primarily for tank start-ups, but can be used in problem tanks that won’t cycle. Both products are also ideal for tanks with other pets such as turtles that have water that requires cleaning or ammonia reduction. Aquarium Optimizer is also great for turtle tanks, and any other pet tanks with stagnant water.
  • Are there different formulas for fresh and salt water? Yes. There are specific formulas specially intended for salt and fresh water applications. Cross-dosing will inhibit the beneficial effects of Aquarium Optimizer, StartSmart and StartSmart Complete.
  • Of the three TLC aquarium products, Optimizer is the most economical product for maintaining a healthy aquarium, StartSmart is used for instant cycling, and StartSmart Complete is generally chosen by the serious hobbyist for maintaining the aquarium, optimizing the cycle, and improving water clarity.

TLC Optimizer

  • TLC Optimizer performance is best when used once a week, however, excellent results can be obtained dosing once a month. Therefore, always treat your aquarium with Optimizer at least once a month.
  • TLC Optimizer is very easy to use. Simply pour TLC Optimizer directly into your aquarium as per the dose schedule (1 ounce Optimizer for every 25 gallons of aquarium volume).
  • Always add Optimizer when changing water.
  • Add a dose whenever adding new fish or significant new tank features.
  • Add Optimizer at a double dose whenever using medication in your aquarium or in a quarantine tank. For best results, add Optimizer 8 to 24 hours after applying the medication.
  • For cycling, Optimizer will speed up cycling of a new aquarium, and it will keep an established aquarium cycled. However, to instantly cycle a new aquarium or problem aquarium, best results are obtained with StartSmart or StartSmart Complete.
  • For improving water clarity or surface clarity, use StartSmart Complete per directions.

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