The Nitrogen Cycle Explained

Setting Up New Aquarium

An essential thing for fish keepers is properly understood, establish and maintain the nitrogen cycle in a fish tank. Since aquariums provide indoor shelters to fish, aquarium fish has acquired an adapted way of life and they need to be kept that way, in a closed environment. Establishing nitrogen cycle might sound a bit complicated. But, certainly, it’s not.

What is nitrogen cycle and how to maintain it?

Our main goal here is to ensure tiny little bugs (bacteria), which fish remove via biological means, do not re-enter their bodies. Toxins like nitrate (NO3), ammonia (NH3) and nitrite (NO2) are all nitrogen compounds actively affecting fish and other aquatics. The nitrogen cycle eliminates these bacteria in the most environmentally friendly manner.

Another important thing to know is that there are two sets of bacteria; the good ones and the bad ones. What we want to do is get rid of the bad toxic bacteria and replace with the good ones. We call them good because these bugs eat ammonia, nitrites and other toxic compounds that come from dead plants or toxins released by the fish as waste material. All you need to do is feed these live bacteria for a few weeks and you will have a clean aquarium free of toxic nitrogen compounds.

The good little bugs normally live in gravel, sand and other filter elements, so if you know someone who abandoned his old aquarium, try to salvage some of these. Adding live bacteria contained in the sand might speed up the ‘elimination process.’ However, it can take you more than just a week to complete it; ammonia’s measured concentration has to read zero and nitrate should be below 40ppm (parts per million) before you can put your fish in the new ecosystem. That is the main reason why you should never buy a fish tank and fish at the same time! You don’t have a place where they could live before the nitrogen cycle is done and running.

The main job for the aquarium keeper is to wait until the bugs have fully grown. Meanwhile, waiting allows you to do a bit more research on toxic bacteria as well as the species of fish you’d like to own. Remember, all this comes BEFORE the fish. You could also get a testing kit to do regular measurements of ammonia and nitrite concentration.

After the long wait, have a final test for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite done. If you find the measurements maintain at the stated limits for a few days, then the nitrogen cycle is working! However, the colonies of bacteria will increase in numbers enough to handle only so much, so don’t scare them with a lot of fish or too much food. Your aquarium should be well balanced if you follow everything in the right way. Ensure to change about 30% of the water each week, and also make sure you get a good water conditioner.

Prime and Amquel are some of the emerging water conditioning companies that will neutralize toxic nitrogen compounds and at the same time making it available for the good bacteria. One of these conditioners acts as a protective layer to fish if you already had fish in the aquarium. Make sure you take readings before changing water; some water disinfectants can interfere with test readings.

Watch video about cycling aquarium

Be sure to learn more about setting up a new aquarium and find out more info about fish keeping & accessories from the front page.

Hopefully, you found some helpful things and ideas from this post! If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply below!


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