How To Cycle An Aquarium: The Beginner’s Guide
Cycling is not something every new fish owner knows. Cycling a new fish tank is necessary to eliminate ammonia and nitrite from the water, making it safe for fishes to live in. So, you must learn how to cycle an aquarium. When this is not done, the ammonia in water will increase, and there are special bacteria that may transform ammonia into a more harmful element-- nitrite. So, if you want your fish to get a healthy environment, start the cycling process.
What is Cycling?
Cycling is establishing a bacteria bed in your aquarium filter. Other aquarium owners call this a nitrogen cycle. Other names for this process are the biological cycle and Nitrification Process. Whatever it is that people call, it is just referring to the same process. And as an aquarium owner, you must know how to cycle an aquarium.
The nitrogen cycle is an important process to make your aquarium safe for the fishes to live in. It is a process where the ammonia, which is a toxic substance, converts into nitrite, another toxic substance, then to nitrate, a non-toxic substance. This is why you need to cycle your new aquarium.
Understanding the Process
When you have an aquarium full of fish, you have to know how to cycle an aquarium, so you know when they are in the safe with the current water. Understanding the whole process will give you the knowledge of making things beneficial for your fish.
First Stage: Ammonia in Water
When you have fish in your aquarium, their urine and protein from uneaten food will become the dirt that is converted by the water bacteria into ammonia. So, when your small aquarium is crowded with fish, the ammonia level will quickly increase, and it may hard for it to recover. But if you have the right fish population, the ammonia will just convert it to nitrite.
Second Stage: Nitrite stage
Nitrite is still a toxic substance, and at this level, there may fishes that become weak. So pet owners have to monitor their fish when it reaches this stage. The nitrate phase occurs when the bacteria convert it to into nitrate. It is characterized by the partial oxidation of ammonium ions.
Third Stage: Nitrate
This is the time when the substance has reached the non-toxic level. This is the end product of oxidation of nitrogen. However, though nitrate is labeled as non-toxic, you still have to make sure the nitrate will not build up. This can be done by ensuring the population of your aquarium is enough for space. Also, do not overfeed them, to avoid ammonia from developing.
How to do the Fishless Cycle?
This is a good thing when you can do the nitrogen cycle without your fishes. This is applicable when you just had your aquarium, and you want it ready to be occupied by your fish. The fishless cycle is one of the ideal ways to stabilize the toxin in the water. And since there is no fish required, no fish are at risk. So, if you are planning to cycle your new aquarium, make sure you know how to cycle an aquarium.
To get started, you must set up the new aquarium, turn on all the equipment. When everything is set, you have to first dechlorinate the water. Then you add ammonia to the aquarium. A few drops will do. Measure it until it reaches 4ppm. Make sure to use the one that is pure without the additional chemicals like detergent, color, or perfume because it may be harmful to the equipment, or the cycle will not be as effective.
Monitor the ammonia level, and you have to keep adding when ammonia starts to drop. You must keep adding it every day until the level of nitrite is at 0ppm. Once you got the required figure, give it another day, and measure the level of both ammonia and nitrate. You will know your tank is ready for fish to occupy when the ammonia is consistently dropping up to 0ppm.
On average, the whole cycle can take up to 6 weeks. So, if you are planning to get an aquarium, make sure you have completed the process before adding the fishes.
Role of Live Plants in the Nitrogen Cycle
You probably see some aquariums with a live plant. This is not just to give their aquarium an underwater scenario, but it helps in improving the nitrogen cycle. This is because plant consumes nitrogen. And since they are constantly using nitrogen, they help lower down the level of nitrate.
So, when you have a huge aquarium, and you wanted to load it with fishes, place a live aquatic plant to help regulate the toxins and creating a happy fish community.
Knowing how to cycle an aquarium and understanding how it works are just a few tasks of a responsible aquarium owner. When you understand how nitrogen cycle work, you will also learn where you can adjust to prevent the increase of toxic substances. One of these is making sure you have the right population to the size of the tank you have. And never to overfeed them, as the uneaten food may become ammonia.
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