Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Ramenuzumaki 09-15-2009 01:10 PM

Cycling an Aquarium
For those of you who are new to the whole Aquaria hobby, and are wondering about the cycling process post here. I have seen many a thread about this and people--such as Byron and Trevor--have been saying the same things over and over. Giving the same advice. To me it seems like a waste of time and forum space to be having to say these things hundreds of times. Here is a brief overview on the "Cycling process."
Nitrogen cycle

Of primary concern to the aquarist is management of the biological waste produced by an aquarium's inhabitants. Fish, invertebrates, fungi, and some bacteria excrete nitrogen waste in the form of ammonia (which will convert to ammonium, in acidic water) and must then pass through the nitrogen cycle. Ammonia is also produced through the decomposition of plant and animal matter, including fecal matter and other detritus. Nitrogen waste products become toxic to fish and other aquarium inhabitants at high concentrations.

The process

A well-balanced tank contains organisms that are able to metabolize the waste products of other aquarium residents. The nitrogen waste produced in a tank is metabolized in aquaria by a type of bacteria known as nitrifiers (genus Nitrosomonas). Nitrifying bacteria capture ammonia from the water and metabolize it to produce nitrite. Nitrite is also highly toxic to fish in high concentrations. Another type of bacteria, genus Nitrospira, converts nitrite into nitrate, a less toxic substance to aquarium inhabitants. (Nitrobacter bacteria were previously believed to fill this role, and continue to be found in commercially available products sold as kits to "jump start" the nitrogen cycle in an aquarium. While biologically they could theoretically fill the same niche as Nitrospira, it has recently been found that Nitrobacter are not present in detectable levels in established aquaria, while Nitrospira are plentiful.) This process is known in the aquarium hobby as the nitrogen cycle.
In addition to bacteria, aquatic plants also eliminate nitrogen waste by metabolizing ammonia and nitrate. When plants metabolize nitrogen compounds, they remove nitrogen from the water by using it to build biomass. However, this is only temporary, as the plants release nitrogen back into the water when older leaves die off and decompose.

Maintaining the Nitrogen cycle

Although informally called the nitrogen cycle by hobbyists, it is in fact only a portion of a true cycle: nitrogen must be added to the system (usually through food provided to the tank inhabitants), and nitrates accumulate in the water at the end of the process, or become bound in the biomass of plants. This accumulation of nitrates in home aquaria requires the aquarium keeper to remove water that is high in nitrates, or remove plants which have grown from the nitrates.
Aquaria kept by hobbyists often do not have the requisite populations of bacteria needed to detoxify nitrogen waste from tank inhabitants. This problem is most often addressed through two filtration solutions: Activated carbon filters absorb nitrogen compounds and other toxins from the water, while biological filters provide a medium specially designed for colonization by the desired nitrifying bacteria. Activated carbon and other substances, such as ammonia absorbing resines, will stop working when their pores get full, so these components have to be replaced with fresh stocks constantly.
New aquaria often have problems associated with the nitrogen cycle due to insufficient number of beneficial bacteria, known as the "New Tank Syndrome". Therefore, new tanks have to be "matured" before stocking them with fish. There are three basic approaches to this: the fishless cycle, the silent cycle, and slow growth.
No fish are kept in a tank undergoing a fishless cycle. Instead, small amounts of ammonia are added to the tank to feed the bacteria being cultured. During this process, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are tested to monitor progress. The silent cycle is basically nothing more than densely stocking the aquarium with fast-growing aquatic plants and relying on them to consume the nitrogen, allowing the necessary bacterial populations time to develop. According to anecdotal reports of aquarists specializing in planted tanks, the plants can consume nitrogenous waste so efficiently that the spikes in ammonia and nitrite levels normally seen in more traditional cycling methods are greatly reduced, if they are detectable at all. More commonly slow growth entails slowly increasing the population of fish over a period of 6 to 8 weeks, giving bacteria colonies time to grow and stabilize with the increase in fish waste.
The largest bacterial populations are found in the filter; efficient filtration is vital. Sometimes, a vigorous cleaning of the filter is enough to seriously disturb the biological balance of an aquarium. Therefore, it is recommended to rinse mechanical filters in an outside bucket of aquarium water to dislodge organic materials that contribute to nitrate problems, while preserving bacteria populations. Another safe practice consists of cleaning only one half of the filter media every time the filter or filters are serviced.
Now I hope gives a little more insight to those who have already started their aquarium's or plan to do so in the near future. The nitrogen cycle is very important to a healthy and happy aquarium. There are different ways you can do this; with and without Fish. You can also use "chemicals" like "Cycle" or Seachem's "Stability" which will introduce the "good" bacteria into the aquarium and help to regulate the bad stuff in the tank. There are also value packs you can get which contain three things for the tank that can help plenty. It includes "Cycle," "AQUAplus Water Condisioner," and "WasteControl." This runs for about 14.98$ CAN + applicable taxes at walmart. Personally I find it is better to get this than get them individually. They are decent sized bottles and to get a larger bottle of just one is about 11$ plus taxes. So you're looking at about 35$ for all three. Anyway if anyone has any questions or concerns please feel free to raise them!

PS: I am really sorry if there is already a thread about this. I just figured it would be a good idea to post this seeing as how we have quite a few beginners with us now and they all seem to get worried with the cycling process. If it is there its probably not very accessible or easy to find for newbies. I sincerely apologize if there is already a thread! :(

Here are some photos: [sorry about the blur]

joshheat25 09-15-2009 04:56 PM

Thanx for the info.

Byron 09-16-2009 11:21 AM

Only issue I have is the `Waste Control`product. Don`t use it.

First, it causes ammonia to rise (it says it `may`on the label, but I can assure you it will because it breaks down organic matter and this produces ammonia). Second, an aquarium should be biologically balanced by the fish, plants and bacteria processes. Adding anything that interferes with these processes is at best going against what we strive for and at worst (and more likely) could cause a crash somewhere in the system, leading to more problems.

Fish and plants have evolved over millions of years to work with bacteria. The aquarium will be healthier and more stable biologically if that relationship is balanced and left alone.


1077 09-16-2009 11:53 AM

Call me old fashioned, I do not recommend adding anything to aquariums except a full function water conditioner such as Prime. Bacterial supplements may or may not produce the desired results For they are not all the same. I do recommend seed material from disease free aquariums if it can be aquired in the way of filter material, and or gravel.
In my view,(and others) there are no cycle in a bottle products that will make an aquarium safe for fish(instantly.,or overnight). Some supplements may help encourage the process of maturing,establishing,or(cycling) but careful monitoring of water should be performed and fish should ALWAYS,,,, be added a few at a time rather than a dozen at a time. Opinions vary.

Ramenuzumaki 09-16-2009 12:11 PM

yeah the cycle stuff i use is an over time thing to help encourage the growth of bacteria i think. its not an over night dealy.

WOW! i just read the waste control thing and i must have been on drugs or half asleep when i read it every other time. it does say ammonia may peak. i thought it said it helps control ammonia. im def not using that stuff anymore.
Ammonia is what changes the water colour right? cuz my water seems to be a yellowishy colour

Byron 09-16-2009 12:33 PM

Ammonia won't colour the water. If there is new wood in the tank, it could be tannins; if that is it, it will dissipate in time. But if you did use that waste control stuff, that probably did it. It has some effect biologically by breaking down organics. And there might be some reaction between the various products, Cycle and Waste Control particularly. If any of the afore-mentioned is the cause, I would say it is harmless though unsightly.


Ramenuzumaki 09-16-2009 12:38 PM

ok :)
uhm i do have wood in there but its been in an aquarium before. heck its been in this aquarium before. im not sure if its real though. its screwed to a rock base and has a fake plant on it *shrug*

i did use cycle and the waste control thinger cuz i did practically reestablish the tank not too long ago. is it bad to keep using cycle even after the cycle process? speaking of ugly water i need to do a 50% water change in a minute or two D: stupid high ammonia and nitrite >.<

Byron 09-16-2009 12:52 PM


Originally Posted by Ramenuzumaki (Post 244180)
ok :)
uhm i do have wood in there but its been in an aquarium before. heck its been in this aquarium before. im not sure if its real though. its screwed to a rock base and has a fake plant on it *shrug*

i did use cycle and the waste control thinger cuz i did practically reestablish the tank not too long ago. is it bad to keep using cycle even after the cycle process? speaking of ugly water i need to do a 50% water change in a minute or two D: stupid high ammonia and nitrite >.<

"Cycle" is said to be harmless even if overdosed, and when i have used it (back in the 1990's) it had no negative effects that i could detect. But I never used it after the initial tank setup because there seemed no point in spending money for something that wasn't needed once the bacteria were established. Course, i had a tank of live plants, and know now what i didn't know then, that the plants were actually doing the cycling immediately. So to be fair and honest, I really have no definite evidence of the effct of "Cycle" on its own. But it certainly did no harm.

I do know that others have used Seachem's "Stability" to cycle a new tank and it has worked the first day. But with few fish. Stability is live bacteria. Dr. Tim Hovanec developed the method of keeping nitrosomonas and nitrospira bacteria alive in a bottle for several months. His company sells such a product, and Bio-Spira is (so I'm told) much the same, as is Stability. I use Stability to be safe, though again with live plants it may be unnecessary.


Ramenuzumaki 09-16-2009 01:01 PM

as for live plants, would a Marimo Algae Ball do ANYTHING at all? i have one in my five gallon tank and was thinking wondering if it was even worth keeping in there because its so big. Its about the size of a tennis ball. If it will help my tank a little with my high ammonia and nitrite levels with my daily water changes then ill leave it in there. also! i was wondering about Nutrafin Freshwater Aquarium salt. it doesnt say how often to use it, and im sort of confused what exactly it does. it says to use one level tablespoon for every 5 gal of water, but it doesnt say how often to do it. I've been doing it with my water changes. lately theyve been big [50-60%] because my ammonia and nitrite are high. nitrite was 2 [ick] when i checked two days ago and my ammonia i dunno i think he used the wrong card to compare it to because it was green and the card had yellow bars on it.

Teammuir1 09-16-2009 01:15 PM

Cycling a new tank
Hi again Everyone...
I have only posted like 2 times.. lol
Here is something I have been looking for.... and you all
might be able to help out with this one...
I have a 75 gallon been doing great now for 5 mths.. got alot a live plants
here is my question.
Can a person take the filter out of lets say the 75 gallon take it right off the back.... and then set it
on the back of a NEW 120 Gallon.. to JUMP START the cycling process?

I have heard of taking the Bio Wheels and changing them out for the new ones. to help
jump start the Cycling process....

but what about just taking the entire Emperor 400 off of the 75 gallon thats established and putting it on the NEW 120 gallon tank.?????

Please any ideas and thoughts on this one.

I have been getting my 120 gallon set up... I have a brand new Emperor 400 Should I just change out the Bio Wheels or the entire filter system?

OK I HAVE YET ANOTHER QUESTION.... same fiter Emperor 400 I read an article on how a person put in the grey cartridges some MATRIX ROCK... and added a air line
PLEASE tell me if anyone can as to what the beneffit to this was? The article reads
OPTIMIZE an already GREAT FILTER..... but it never stated as to why it was better that way ???

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