How To Cycle An Aquarium

The most important thing to know when setting up a new fish tank is how to cycle the aquarium. Every new aquarium needs to go through the Nitrogen Cycle to provide a thriving ecosystem for your aquatic pets and plants. Here’s everything you need to know about cycling a fish tank.

What Is The Nitrogen Cycle?

The nitrogen cycle is a process whereby various bacteria convert harmful waste. There are four main steps:

  1. The decay of waste products created by fish, plants, and invertebrates, as well as dead organisms or uneaten food.
  2. Nitrosomonas (a bacteria) converts ammonia to nitrite.
  3. Another set of bacteria called Nitrobacter converts the nitrite into nitrate, which is less toxic than nitrite.
  4. Anaerobic conditions then convert nitrate into nitrogen gas. Though this last step is not common in most aquariums, frequent water changes help dilute nitrate.

Why Do Fish Tanks Need To Go Through The Nitrogen Cycle?

Fish waste releases ammonia in the water which in turn can kill fish and other aquatic animals. The Nitrogen Cycle helps prevent ammonia build-up. It’s a process whereby beneficial bacteria in your tank and filter media, converts ammonia (toxic) to nitrite (toxic), then nitrite to nitrates (non-toxic).

Now although nitrates are non-toxic, a buildup can cause loss of appetite and discoloration in fish. So, water changes are necessary to reduce the amount of nitrate in the aquarium. The Nitrogen Cycle is an important part of establishing a healthy environment for fish, snails, shrimp, etc.

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How Long Does The Nitrogen Cycle Take?

In general, the nitrogen cycle takes between six to seven weeks to complete. You need to monitor the cycle every other day using an aquarium test kit to check the ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH levels.

Using the testing kit, you can tell the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Once the testing apparatus no longer detects nitrites, it is safe to assume that you can add your fish.

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