07-20-2009, 07:43 PM
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Hi Nick and welcome,
to "cycle" a tank in the easiest of terms is the process of building up a defense mechanism to keep your fish healthy and happy from everyday toxins in your water. Pretty much you want to build up your nitrites in your tank in order to be able to handle the ammonia load which is produced naturally.
Ammonia comes from several different sources, most commonly from fish waste, but it can also come from un-eaten food and decaying fish. When you build up your nitrites during the cycle process, the goal is for your nitrites to be able to handle the load of ammonia which you tank will produce, and turn the ammonia into a chemical which is far less toxic to your fish. There are two ways to cycle your tank, either through a fish-less or a fish-in cycle. Either method works well and can take anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks to full complete itself.
I'll leave you with that, and you can google the cycling processes. But I'm sure someone esle will be on here to explain them in more detail if you would like. Any questions, this is the place to shoot away!
PS - either way you cycle your tank...do yourself a huuuuge favor and pick up an API Liquid Test kit. You will need monitor your water parameters everyday no matter which method you use. They are around $25. Make sure you get the liquid test kit, not the test strips as they are un-reliable and un-trustworthy. You'll save yourself daily/countless trips to the fish store to get your water tested.