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What is Cycling

By: Logan DeBorde
Cycling the tank means that you are establishing a bacteria bed in your biological filter to remove toxins that the fish's metabolism creates. There are right and wrong ways to do this, and there are things you can do to slow this process (which is something you don't want to do). There are two steps to cycling, but you don't have to do anything special for either of them. First, your filter will grow bacteria that take ammonia and turn it into Nitrite, nitrite is more toxic than ammonia. In hard water, or water with a higher pH, it produces bacteria that digest Nitrite and turn it into relatively harmless Nitrate. Also, bacteria in the gravel will convert Nitrite to Nitrate. Nitrate will contribute to stress in your fish, as well as contributing to algae growth, so it is important to do regular water changes to keep your tank in the best possible condition; and, to keep Nitrites and Nitrates in check. Cycling your tank can not be stessed enough.

What to do to cycle your tank

First you want to set up your tank and get everything going. To cycle your tank you want to get a very small amount of fish. I reccomend Whiteclouds or Zebra Danios. Make sure to not get more than 2 or 3 fish, for up to a 20g. tank, to cycle. You will want more for bigger tanks. If you put too many fish in, it will defeat the purpose of cycling and add a large amount of harmful bacteria, which you do not want. For the first few days let your tank sit and feed little fish food, so there is not too much waste.
Every couple of days, you will want to do a 10%-15% water change, and after about a week, take a sample of your water to a local fish store and get it tested. Most pet shops will test fresh water for a small fee, or some will do it for free! If the store you got the fish from won't, check another store or buy yourself a test kit. At this point, your water should test with high ammonia and a trace of nitrite. If it does'nt, don't worry, just give it time. The cycling process usually takes four to eight weeks. The illustration is of a tank with live plants and shows the proccess of how the tanks biological proccess works.
After those 4-8 weeks, your ammonia and Nitrite levels should be acceptable (about trace), and you can add more fish. Do not add any more fish until the ammonia and Nitrite levels have both dropped. Remember to add new fish a few at a time to prevent over-stressing the filter and the water quality. If you add too many at once, your tank will have to cycle again, yet if you add a few at a time, your bacteria growth rate will increase for a short time, with minimal effect on your fish.
If you are not having satisfactory results ther may be a few reasons why.
  1. Did you forget to treat your water? Chlorine and Chloramine will kill "good guy" bacteria and stop the cycling proccess.
  2. Did you do regular water changes? If not the "bad guy" bacteria will take over your tank, and kill fish and lower water quality.
  3. Did you do large or small water changes? If you did too large of water changes it will remove the bacteria you are trying to cycle.
If any of these things happened you'll probably have to start all over.
The only bio-booster chemicals I would use are: Bio-Spira and Cycle. Also make sure to add Tap water treater, unless you have a Tap Water filter. Note: when using bio-booster chemicals do not rush the cycling proccess.
I hope this helps and explains cycling. Make sure to check out the setting up aquarium articles for other help.

The Nitrogen Cycle © Logan DeBorde

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