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The nitrogen cycle (also known as ‘new tank syndrome’) is an ongoing process and without a doubt the most important process in helping to sustain the health of your aquarium.
Without this occurrence, ammonia and nitrite, which are produced naturally, will become lethal to most livestock (i.e. fish and corals). Therefore, it is imperative to control these harmful elements by introducing healthy nitrifying bacteria into your aquarium. This is especially important when setting up a new aquarium since the beneficial bacteria have not yet established.
Fish consume rich sources of nitrogen in their food and then excrete it. This waste is expulsed as ammonia, which converts to nitrite, but only if nitrifying bacteria are present. This subsequently accumulates into nitrate the same way.
Stock your new aquarium with only a few hardy fish, and feed them sparingly. Wait approximately a month before adding any more fish. Treat your aquarium with bio enhancer, which immediately introduces healthy bacteria into your aquarium. Repeat new tank dosing weekly for the first few weeks to ensure that strong populations of nitrifying bacteria are established.
Test your water with an ammonia and nitrite test kit. This is the only way to know for certain that these two toxic nitrogen compounds (ammonia and nitrite) are at ‘zero’. This is absolutely necessary before you add more fish.
If you already have an existing, healthy aquarium, you can introduce established filter media from that tank into the filter of your new tank. This is beneficial due to the large existing populations of active bacteria. In saltwater aquariums, we strongly suggest the use of cured, live rock for the same reason.
As you add new fish, remember that you have only the amount of nitrifying bacteria that was necessary to support your initial fish. Therefore, you need to dose the aquarium with supplemental bacteria (i.e. add biological enhancer weekly) and re-test ammonia and nitrite levels.
Do not clean or change media in your new filter for the first two months after setup as this is where significant populations of desirable nitrifying bacteria live and populate. Once you pass this period, follow the recommended filter media replacement schedule and you’re good to go.
THE AQUARIUM NITROGEN CYCLE – SIMPLY EXPLAINED
Tom Sarac demystifies the aquatic nitrogen cycle, while offering several tips on how to get the most out of cycling both new and existing aquariums.
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