Cycling - Ammonia, Nitrite & Nitrate - Basic Version

sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
edited August 2010 in Beginner's Forum
Basically the cycling process works like this:

Ammonia is created from the breakdown of fish waste & decaying plant or food matter.
Ammonia levels build up & then ammonia converting bacteria start to grow & consume the ammonia but release nitr-i-te.

Once the Nitrite levels build up, nitrite converting bacteria starts to grow & consume the nitrite and release nitrate.

Once the ammonia bacteria & the nitrite bacteria build up to a sustainable level to continuously consume the ammonia & nitrites in the tank the cycling process is complete and your water test readings should be:

Ammonia = 0
Nitrite = 0
Nitrate = something
(ie a reading anywhere between 5-40 for example)

Nitrates are used up by plants & partially removed via water changes to keep them at a level that won't harm the fish.

It is important to remember to ALWAYS clean the filter material in water that has been removed from the tank... NEVER clean filter material with fresh tap water as it will kill all the good bacteria causing your tank to go through the cycling process all over again.

Any easy way to partially skip the cycling process is to:

1) Add some filter material from a filter already in a cycled tank to help kickstart the bacteria growth.
2) Run a 2nd filter in an established tank for a week or so & then add this filter to the new tank.

(( at least that's how I understand it <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> ))


  • rtcs
    rtcs Member Posts: 192
    How does what actually cycle the tank, I understand why but how do you actually do it?
  • sthn75
    sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    The cycling process is basically the process through which the tank goes through while the good bacteria are being built up mainly in the filter.

    To start the cycling process you first need an ammonia source, which can be:
    1. Fish waste or fish food
    2. A pure ammonia additive
    3. A commercial bio starter such as Seachem Stability
  • rtcs
    rtcs Member Posts: 192
    Do I need to have fish in the tank to do a cycle, such as goldfish?
  • sthn75
    sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    You need to have something in the tank which will create the ammonia, such as fish waste, decaying fish food or a commercial biostarter.

    It's also worth mentioning that the cycling process can take upto 4-6 weeks to fully be completed.
  • rtcs
    rtcs Member Posts: 192
    I have decided to go with the process of adding fish food for the intrim and tomorow I will purchase an ammonia and Nitrate kit from the pet shop, I will hopefully get some thing to kick start the bio process too.

  • sthn75
    sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Test Kit wise... you will need Ammonia, Nitrite & Nitrate kits... and they work out cheaper if you buy them altogether in a Master Test Kit.

    Let us know how you go <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->
  • rtcs
    rtcs Member Posts: 192
    Will do..thanks again!
  • rtcs
    rtcs Member Posts: 192
    Well have bought the kits plus a bio starter agent.

    I have added a couple of small algie eaters and 2 small goldfish to get the process going so hopefully all will work out ok.
  • Mooo
    Mooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Good Luck rtcs
    Would love to see a photo when you are all done. <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Mooo
    Mooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    edited April 2009
    Just had my water tested..Ouch that sounds painful <!-- s:lol: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_lol.gif" alt=":lol:" title="Laughing" /><!-- s:lol: -->
    & my water is great <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->, I had it tested..My lovely lfs lady told me, to my delight, it is fine..Yay!!
    No ammonia no nitrite I'm so wrapped, Seems I am a good keeper of water. Now I feel so much better, I know now, my recent deaths, were not because I am a bad water keeper.
    Phew...I couldn't live with my self it it was all my fault..
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • puka777
    puka777 Member Posts: 1
    not to burst your bubble or anything but sometimes the lfs person may lie to you about your water quality, thats why its best to buy a testing kit yourself and test the water and you might also want to get nitrite tested and also just to add its very unlikely you have no nitrate becuase it well always be there.
  • Padreac
    Padreac Member Posts: 22
    Yeah, Even my LFS told me not to trust most stores tests, they want you to buy products!
  • Mooo
    Mooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Gosh how did I miss this threat ages ago... <!-- s:roll: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_rolleyes.gif" alt=":roll:" title="Rolling Eyes" /><!-- s:roll: --> Unlike me to miss one..

    Yeah I agree Puka, But this one is truly ok..I know her very well....she is a friend...& doesn't just want my money , I actually buy most of my products and meds online, so thats not an issue at all, she does have my fish's best interests at heart...
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Doug
    Doug Member, Classifieds Posts: 2,371
    Heres a question for everyone and will prob help the new tank owners out there.

    What do you use to kick stat a cycle? I know we have talked about food and shrimp but to actualy get the bacteria in there.

    Apparently the reason why my tank that has be 'cycling' for 5 weeks now is only getting more and more concentrated with ammonia is because I cleaned it too well and there were no bacteria at all to start breeding. So i purchaced some biotec super concentrate which is basically trillions of the benificial bacteria in powered form.apparently it will have the ammonia down in about a week.

    Its odd. apparently, once the ammonia get over about 4ppm then you need to start the cycle again as ammonia that high will kill even the bacteria that eats ammonia
  • Mooo
    Mooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    I use Seachem Stability & a guppy or two... <!-- s:thumbright: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_thumright.gif" alt=":thumbright:" title="thumbright" /><!-- s:thumbright: --> & have never lost a tank cycling guppy ever...
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Brengun
    Brengun Moderator Posts: 1,985
    For those who have no idea what Seachem Prime and Seachem Stability are:
    They are fantastic products and seldom are other products quite as good.
    The Stability will help promote the growth of good bacteria.
    You can use the Prime to treat town water to make it safe for fish and also to keep the effects of a cycling tank on your fish to a minimum.

    Make no mistake ammonia and nitrite is nasty on fish. It burns their gills, eyes and fins if there is no additive in the tank to help them cope.
    It is for this reason it is usually recommended you only stock a new tank very lightly with a few hardier fish who can cope.

    Mind you, I have kept guppy fry going as good as gold in a cycling tank by daily adding of Stability and Prime liquids until I am quite sure the cycle is over and my tests show zero ammonia, zero nitrites, and nitrates just showing at 5 or so.
    If my nitrates get up to 20 or more I do a gravel vac and water change as most fish will find that level of pollution uncomfortable.

    One of the best test kits I found is the API master one in the drops, not the strips. You don't have to buy the whole thing all the time and ammonia and nitrate which you use more of than the nitrite and pH test are available individually as refils later on. Store it in a cool place as the tests should be kept under 30C.
    I usually buy mine online at <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""> ... 7&catID=22</a><!-- m -->

    Yes the test kits, Seachem Stability and Prime are not that cheap but these are the three main items you will use the most of even if you have been fishkeeping for years and it beats seeing your fish dying from a preventable problem of poor water.

    Number 2 rule: Do not over feed. Fish very seldom starve to death from underfeeding but a lot do die from overfeeding which can cause bloat and death.