Cycling Your Tank
Whether you are starting a saltwater or freshwater aquarium, cycling your aquarium water is the first and most important step to a successful tank!
Freshwater - Removing chlorine from the water
You have just gotten home with your new tank and are ready to set it up. Step one is to lay down your substrate and then fill it up with water. Easy enough, right?
However, in order to use tap water, we must remove the chlorine, chloramines & detoxify heavy metals. This must be done in order to begin your water cycle. We do this with a tap water conditioner, which is inexpensive and can be purchased in several brands.
Saltwater – Water
Although it is tempting, it is not good practice to use tap water in a saltwater aquarium. Marine tanks use a combination of Reverse Osmosis De-Ionized water (RODI/RO water) and various brands of ocean/reef salts. You can buy pre-made saltwater here at Pet Central or make your own using R.O. water (which requires an R.O. System) and the salt brand of your preference. Step one is to place rock & sand, then add your water after scaping is complete.
After the Addition of Water
After you have added your water, the next step of cycling an aquarium is to add some type of waste or biological agent. Contrary to popular belief, it is extremely hard to add fish the same day you purchase your aquarium and is not recommended.
An aquarium usually takes anywhere from two-six weeks to completely cycle your water. In the diagram, you can see the process of the aquarium cycle.
As many know, ammonia is extremely toxic to fish and can kill them. The nitrogen cycle takes waste in an aquarium and turns it into ammonia. Ammonia then converts into nitrites which are also very toxic to fish. Finally, the bacteria are converted into beneficial waste known as nitrates. This waste is then removed from your tank by doing weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly water changes.
How do I Know When the Water is Cycled?
Testing your tank water is how you can determine whether it is safe to add fish.
There are a few ways you can do this. The first way is to bring water samples in a glass container to Pet Central. Basic water testing is free and allows you to see what stage of the nitrogen cycle your tank is in. You can test your water every week or every two weeks to check on the cycle.
You can also purchase a test kit to test your own water. We recommend purchasing a chemical test kit over strips as it is much more accurate. There are different types of kits and levels of testing for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
How Do I Speed Up the Cycle?
There are a couple of ways to help speed up the cycling of your aquarium.
We carry several products in the store, including Fritz 7 or 9 (7-freshwater/9-saltwater). Fritz 7 & 9 have nitrifying bacteria that tanks usually take weeks to develop. This option could help speed up the cycling process by a couple of weeks and is relatively inexpensive.
One of the biggest “problems” we encounter is a never-ending cycle. This is caused by a few factors.
Bacteria blooming in a new aquarium is a good, healthy stage of the water cycle but can cause cloudy water. Many people, thinking this is dirty water, attempt a water change. This causes the removal of the good bacteria and restarts the stages of the cycle again.
Removal/cleaning of gravel in an aquarium is a common mistake during water changes. Many people will remove all of the water or rinse the waste (from both fish and their food) from the gravel. Although this rids the tank of bad bacteria, it also rids it of good bacteria that keeps your tank cycled. The best way to clean your tank is to do water changes in a percent such as 15%, 25%, or 50%, and clean gravel/sand with a gravel vac!