Aquarium Cycle

What is a Cycle?

In nature all things are perfectly balanced. For example, take a natural body of water with fish, such as a pond. In this pond fish are constantly eating, and therefore producing excrement. These dangerous (posionous\toxic) substances are released directly into the water. in this natuaral pond there is naturally occuring benefical bacteria that breaks this toxic\posionous material down into less dangerous substances and finally a gas that can diffuse into the atmosphere, with water movement. This system is interdependent. The dangerous byproducts created by the fish are broken down by the benefical bacteria.

Now consider a brand new aquarium. The gravel is washed out with water, the decorations glistening new, and it is filled with clear water. This aquarium is spotless, and it therefore has no benefical bacteria. So, if fish are simply added to this aquarium the dangerous\toxic substances will simply build.

The process of building up benefical bacteria in an aquarium is know as "Cycling a tank". This time period is know as the "Cycle". This process can take from 4 days to a couple months. The cycling talked about on this website is fishless cycle.

Why do we Cycle a tank?

We cycle a tank to build the benefical bacteria that will take care of the posionous fish ecriments. If a tank is not cycled (does not have benefical bacteria) the toxic\dangerous substances will quickly build to dangerous levels. At these levels the water becomes dangerous and can seriously harm or kill fish. The death of fish in a brand new tank, because of toxic excriment pollution, is knnown as New Tank Syndrome. This problem could easily wipe out a whole tank.

The thing is, this problem can be easily avoided by cycling a tank (explained below). There is no excusss for not cycling a tank. No fish should lose its life because of the New Tank Syndrome.

Cycling a tank will simply decrease fish loss and stress. It will result is less frequent water changes, once fish are added to the tank.

Technicallity of a Cycle

Up to this point we have been talking about these negative, posionous substances in very simply terms. Now the technically terms need to be learned.

* Ammonia- The pure excriments, the most toxic to fish. The levels should be kept around 0ppm in a cycled aquarium.

* Nitrite- The 1st subtance the ammonia is converted to, less toxis but still dangerous to fish. The level should be kept around 0ppm in a cycled tank.

* Nitrate- The 2nd substance ammonia is converted to, a lot less toxic then ammonia or nitrite. Once the level raises to 20-35 a water change should be preformed to lower the level.

So as fish eat, digest, and dispose of their food they are really feeding bacteria. As the fish load increase the "food" increase and therefore the bacteria colony increases. So the bacteria and fish in your aquarium can interdepend on each other.

However this bacteria takes time to begin growing vigorously. This is the cycle time. Once the bacteria is growing well you can begin adding fish and it will even its number to the need for your aquarium.

Cycle product

Cycle product
A product that is intended to help your aquarium cycle faster. These are not always good for your aquarium. It is better to use other methods to cycle your tank.

What is and how to do: fishless cycle

Fishless cycles are the most humane way to correctly cycle a tank. Using fish to cycle a tank is inhumane and provincial\narrow-minded. Even if the fish does not die during the cycle process the stress can definitely negitively affect the fish`s lifespan.

Fishless cycles also tend to be quicker than other cycles because there is no fear of killing innocent fish, no loss of investment, no water changes, and, simply, more flexiblity.

A fishless cycle involves mimicking fish excrements, or making the clean tank dirty. The best way to do this is by adding drops of pure ammonia to the tank, and using a test kit, looking for an ammonia spike. On the first day add drops of the ammonia to the tank, until you get a clear ammonia reading when you test the water. For each following day, add the same number of drops as on the first day. Over the next week, monitor your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. After about 2 days the ammonia level should decreases and the nitrite level should spike. In the next 3 days the nitrite level should also recede and the nitrate level should rise steadily from then on. Once your tank has read: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 20-50 nitrates for a few days then you know the cycle is complete and fish may be added. The drops of ammonia should no longer be added at this point. Also, remember to always add fish in incriments. Pure ammonia can be found at hardware stores. I have never used this method myself, so look at other aquarium fourums for more information.

This simulated cycle can also be started by adding tropical fish flakes to the water. As the flakes decompose the release ammonia, which starts the cycle. You can also use shrimp. Just wrap it in some paper towel (to keep it together) and add it to the tank. This method can be messy however. As the shrimp decomposes it can cause algae blooms that cloud the water, and can also heavily pollute the tank if it is not removed at some point.

Overall the best way to cycle a tank is through the pure and ammonia drops and "seeding" a tank. Seeding a tank involves adding gravel and/or filter material and/or water from an established tank. An established tank is simply a tank that has already been cycled from several monthes, usually 6. This tank has countless colonies of benefical bacteria, so when gravel, filter material or water from this established tank is put into the new, clean tank the benefical bacteria is jump-started. This will radically reduce the time it takes to cycle a tank. However, make sure this gravel/filter material/water comes from a healthy tank, with no disease/illness. By sharing material with other tanks you run the risk of introducing unwanted elements to your tank. Therefore, these materials should not come from a local pet store, and only from a health tank.