Home Cycling Your Aquarium

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Cycling Your Aquarium PDF Print E-mail

Cycling Your Aquarium

Why is it important to cycle your reef aquarium before you put anything live in it?

Because a new aquarium has Toxic Waste Products. This toxic waste will kill live corals and fish if left untreated.

Before an aquarium if cycled, it usually has waste products in it which are toxic. Just like human waste which is made up of mainly of toxic ammonia, so is waste in a new aquarium.

Its important to be able to naturally breakdown these waste products before anything fish or corals are put into it. We need to detoxify this naturally occuring waste.

So cycling a tank makes it safe to add live fish and corals. And to do this, we rely on nature. We rely on bacteria. And its free!

Given sufficient time, bacteria will naturally grow in an aquarium. And lucky for us, the correct type of bacteria will grow and feed on these toxic waste products. They will convert the bad toxic ammonia and nitrites, into less or non toxic waste products. We just have to provide the right conditions and amount of time for nature to do this on its own.

What you need to do is to "Cycle" your new aquarium.

Your tank needs to grow a "biological filter" which changes the toxic waste products from fish or corals, etc, to harmless waste. This is the nitrogen cycle.

The truth is, you can't predict how long it will take for your tank to be safe. You need to measure the water quality to find out how your tank is progressing in establishing the biological filter.

Every time builds its biological filter at a different rate, depending upon temperature, beginning organic load, and other factors.

Initially you will see a rise in Ammonia, which is extremely toxic. Then in a few days or even a few weeks, the ammonia level will start to drop, and the Nitrite level (NOT Nitrate) will start to rise. This is still toxic. Then in a few days or a week or more, the Nitrite level will drop and the Nitrate level will start to rise.

Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen cycle is the main cycle in your tank for converting toxic waste products to non toxic products.

Without it, waste from your fish or corals would quickly cause the aquarium water to become toxic and kill all the life in it.

The nitrogen cycle is important because it describes the primary way primary way that waste products are removed from a system. Unlike the oceans, your aquarium is a closed system and the waste products wont leave your system unless you remove them.

Waste will stay in your system unless its either removed through biological processes, through water changes, or through protein skimming. So we recommend that you understand the nitrogen cycle and know how to make sure it is functioning in your tank.

Ammonia(very toxic) ---> Nitrite (still toxic) -> Nitrate (relatively non-toxic at lower concentrations)

The complete biological cycle involves bacteria (Nitrosomonas sp.) converting the toxic ammonia waste (from fish primarily) converted into toxic Nitrite first. Then another bacteria (Nitrobacter sp.) converts the toxic Nitrite into relatively non-toxic Nitrate. Fortunately live rock is one thing that can do all three conversions by itself, naturally. It contains all of the types of bacteria necessary once its properly cured. But you have to give the rock plenty of time to allow bacteria to become established.

And the only way to know when it has done that is to test your aquarium water, for Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrate.

Your local pet store should be able to do test your reef aquarium water for you if you dont want to buy the inexpensive test kits yourself. But if you are serious about reefkeeping, then you really should invest in aquarium test kits for at least the main items. At a minimum, get an ammonia test kit (NH3) , nitrite test kit (NO2) , nitrate test kit (NO3), calcium test kit and alkalinity test kit.. And if keeping stony SPS corals, you will also need a Strontium test kit and Magnesium test kit.

 

Dont put anything alive in your tank unless you know for sure that your tank is cycled and has completed the Nitrogen cycle!

 

 
 

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