How and Why to cycle a new aquarium
How and Why To Cycle a New Aquarium?
When you want to start up a new fish tank or aquarium they may be processes that you are not yet aware of. For example you may not be aware of The Nitrogen Cycle, it can sometimes be referred to as other names such as, New Tank Syndrome, Biological Cycle, Nitrification Process or the Start Up Cycle. There are right and wrong ways to do this process and I am hoping this how to guide will help you along your way if you want to maintain a successful fish tank.
The Nitrogen Cycle Stages
The process can take from 2 weeks to about 8 weeks dependant on what process you want to use. The Nitrogen cycle itself has 3 stages.
Stage 1 – Either fish waste, uneaten fish food or raw fish are all introduced into the aquarium they then break down into one of two things Ammonium (NH4) or Ammonia (NH3). It will break down into either one dependant on the PH levels in the tank. The Ammonium is not as harmful as the Ammonia is to the fish. If the PH levels in the tank are below 7 then the material will break down into Ammonium or if it is higher than PH 7 then it will break down into Ammonia.
Stage 2 – Then bacteria called notrosomonas will develop and essentially eliminate all Ammonia. As a result of the Ammonia oxidizing a new toxin will develop in the tank called Nitrites. Nitrites is a by product of the oxidizing Ammonia, and they are just as toxic to the fish. You can test the levels of the nitrites with a testing kit, the levels will have risen by the end of the first week or beginning of the second week.
Stage 3 – At this stage in the process a new bacterium called nitrobacter will have developed and it will convert the nitrites to nitrates. Nitrates are not as harmful as nitrites or ammonia but in larger amounts it can be. The quickest way to eliminate these bacteria from the tank is to perform partial water changes. Once the tank has gone through this process you will need to keep monitoring the tank water for the high levels of nitrates but can perform the water changes as necessary as required. There are other ways to control the levels of nitrates dependant on the type of aquarium you have. For freshwater fish tanks live aquarium plants or for saltwater tanks live rocks and a deep sand bed will also use up some of the nitrates.
Starting the Cycle Using Fish
The best fish to use in the Nitrogen Cycle are, for freshwater the best fish are the Zebradanio or for saltwater Damselfish are the best. DO NOT USE GOLDFISH, you pet shop will generally point you towards the hardy fish. Mainly the type of fish you want to keep. Other fish such as the gold fish may become stressed during this cycle which can cause fish disease and most will die. The number of fish you should use will depend on the size of your tank and filter.
Starting the Cycle without Fish
There are a few options that you can use to get this process started.
Option 1 – Using fish food drop in a few flakes every 12 hours. As the food starts to decompose the ammonia will be released, you will have to keep the process going throughout the cycle by continuing to “feed” the tank.
Option 2 – Raw fish. Put a chunk of raw fish into the tank generally about a 2 inch by 1 inch size piece will be sufficient enough to decompose and release the ammonia.
Option 3 – Using 100% pure Ammonia. The best way to do this is to put 5 drops of Ammonia per 10 gallons of aquarium water. To make sure the ammonia levels are at the correct levels you can test it by using a Seachem Ammonia Alert. You use this by sticking the test to the inside of the tank and it has a circle that changes colour depending on the Ammonia levels in the tank.
Still having problems?
If your levels of nitrates and ammonia aren’t high enough after six to eight weeks of cycling you will need to take a look and assess your situation.
Did you treat your water that originally went into the tank and remove all chlorine and chloramines? If you did not then the chlorine may be killing the bacteria that are trying to start the filter.
Did you perform your water changes regularly? If you did not perform your partial water changes every so often then the entire excess waste in the tank from the fish food etc may well be killing off your fish and producing fish disease.
Did you do moderate water changes rather than larger water changes? A moderate water change is about 10-15% of the water changing, a larger water change is about 20-50%. If you have been changing large amounts of water then this will cause the bacteria and fish to stress which will then cause inadequate filtration.