You have bought a new aquarium, installed it in a corner of your house and already filled it with water. Now you may wonder what the next step is. Add the fish? Stop! If you add your fish now, they will soon be dead.
Before adding the first fish, there is one very important thing to do: start the water cycle in the aquarium.
For beginners, the nitrogen cycle is considered the most confusing part of the installation or maintenance of the aquarium. But do not worry, it is possible to understand.
What is the water cycle in the aquarium and why is it important?
You may have heard the terms water cycle, biological cycle, nitrification process or taxi cycle. Do not get confused, All this refers to the same: the nitrogen cycle.
Before showing you how to cycle, it is important that you know what is happening.
Unfortunately, there is no fish toilet. Therefore, they defecate and urinate in the same water they swim in. As the number of their wastes increases, ammonia is released into the water. Ammonia is a toxic substance that will kill your fish.
Fortunately, nature is on your side. The nitrogen cycle prevents your fish from having this horrible end.
Stages of the nitrogen cycle
This natural process consists of three stages, and along these stages, it is promoted that beneficial bacteria (good bacteria) be established in the aquarium. This is what keeps your fish safe from ammonia.
In the aquarium, the waste is broken down into ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, as seen in the following diagram.
Stage 1: ammonia (toxic)
Fish waste is broken down into ammonia.
As they break down, feces, urine, food left over to fish and decaying plants emit ammonia. In turn, this will continue to accumulate in the tank, reaching deadly levels. That is, until a beneficial bacterium that eats it begins to proliferate.
These bacteria naturally appear in the tank by themselves and once they proliferate enough, they can eat the ammonia as fast as it seems.
Stage 2: nitrites (toxic)
As ammonia levels begin to decrease, nitrite levels begin to increase. This is because the bacteria that eat ammonia emit a new chemical: nitrite.
Like ammonia, nitrites are highly toxic to fish. But don’t worry because, as nitrite levels rise, a second bacterium appears in the aquarium. And what is your favorite food? The nitrites
Once this good bacteria grows in number you can eat nitrites as fast as they occur.
Stage 3: nitrates (harmless)
As nitrite levels decrease, nitrate levels will increase. This is because Nitrite-eating bacteria emit a new chemical: nitrate.
Nitrate is the end product of the nitrogen cycle. And they are relatively harmless to your aquarium, at least in small quantities. But as nitrates accumulate, they can become toxic to fish.
Fortunately, nitrates can be reduced to harmless levels by changing the water. In fact, this is one of the reasons why you should make regular water changes in your aquarium.
And that is all there is in the nitrogen cycle! It is not as difficult as it might seem in the first instance. When a cycle is established in an aquarium, the system is simply being forced to undergo the nitrogen cycle.
The reason you need to cycle in your aquarium is so that these two beneficial bacteria can grow to the point that they can eliminate ammonia and harmful nitrites as quickly as they occurred.
The nitrogen cycle is continuous. While you can’t see it, this cycle happens constantly in your aquarium, which keeps your fish safe from damage.
How to establish and maintain the water cycle in the aquarium?
In a live aquarium, this waterfall is established over time. It usually takes up to three months before a new aquarium has full capacity to convert the waste into nitrate.
The best method to establish the cycle in the new aquarium is to gradually add the fish. You should start with smaller fish to allow nitrogen converting bacteria to grow. From there, the pace of gradual increase in waste will be maintained.
Beneficial bacteria grow on any surface of the aquarium and concentrate on the sponge / filter medium that has a high surface area. For this reason it is that you should avoid cleaning a tank completely, as this will eliminate beneficial bacteria.
Instead, you should make partial water changes of approximately 10% of the volume, once a week.