Cycling an aquarium is the process of building up nitrifying bacteria that battle the ammonia levels in your fish tank. This is an essential phase during the start-up of any aquarium. Aquarium cycling should be considered mandatory.
Why do you need to cycle an aquarium?
You need to establish the “good” bacteria in your aquarium to help remove toxins from your aquarium water. This is the basis for any tank and filtration system to keep the water clear and safe for your fish.
If you don’t cycle your aquarium properly or carefully, you will risk losing your fish that you add to your tank. If you are planning on setting up a tank in which you will house many inhabitants and fish, aquarium cycling is necessary before adding the main bulk of your fish to the aquarium.
How do you cycle an aquarium?
Set up your fish tank equipment. Add the rocks and gravel. Set up your filtration hardware. Add aquarium water. Basically get you aquarium to the point where the next step would be to add fish.
Buy one or two hardy fish and add them to the tank. Also buy a water testing kit that you will be able to use to test ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels.
Every few days, test your aquarium water. You’ll notice higher than suggested ammonia levels and possibly other water parameters will out of order. Do 10% to 15% aquarium water changes every 2-3 days as well. This will help to keep the toxin levels at a decent level for your one or two starter fish that are helping you to cycle your tank.
Continue this routine for a few weeks. At some point around the 2-5 week mark you’ll notice during your water testing that the ammonia levels and other parameters are at acceptable levels as suggested by your testing kit.
At this point your tank is cycled. Let it run for a couple more weeks just to be safe, and then start adding fish.
Add fish slowly
After cycling your aquarium for the first time, add fish to your aquarium at a slow pace. Do not add a bunch of fish at one time.
This will help you to keep your water parameters from getting out of control and will help you to prevent adding more fish than you or your aquarium filtration can handle.