Cycling is an integral part of the setup of a new aquarium. Most new hobbyists are hardly aware of its importance, making plans and purchases for the set-up of the tank without planning for the cycling process. This is a major cause of the death of fish within a short period of time. This is never encouraging as new fish keepers invest a lot – their finances, time, and even emotions – so they could enjoy their reward.
Cycling basically involves the establishment of a beneficial bacteria colony in order to create a livable environment for your fish. A fish normally lives in a very large water body where biological changes occur, creating a viable environment for them to thrive in. For your fish to survive well in a man-made habitat, this biological atmosphere must be made available. This process works largely the same way as leaving a toilet unclean for weeks – bacteria would definitely have the environment to grow. In the same way, all you need do is patiently waiting while the bacteria grow – as your fish in the tank release waste products. These bacteria help to keep the tank water clean and healthy for your fish.
The waste products released by fish produce ammonia which further breaks down into nitrites. Both nitrites and ammonia are harmful to the health of your fish. Therefore, the beneficial bacteria released from the waste products which forms a biological bed ensures your fish are not poisoned by their own waste.
However, fishless cycling is possible. Since ammonia is the food needed for bacteria to grow and survive, introducing ammonia to the aquarium without the use of live fish would also aid the cycling process. Sadly, ammonia is dangerous and handling pure ammonia can be a difficult task for a beginner. This makes cycling with the help of live fish the ideal option.
Since it can be a difficult period for the first set of fish as the environment is not fully optimized for survival, using hardy fish such as barbs, swordtails, guppies, tetras, and mollies would be great. These fish are also very affordable and they would be able to survive the stress involved in cycling. It is also recommended that too many fish are not introduced to the aquarium as more fish will mean more ammonia build up especially in small tanks.
After introducing your fish into the aquarium, you would need to test the water same day and next if that is possible to check the ammonia levels. If the ammonia concentration is above 0.25, water change would be necessary. You can start by changing about 50% of the water before testing again. If the ammonia levels are still high, you may want to take out up to 75% of the water. Same process should be applied in checking the nitrite levels. Once you confirm your nitrite and ammonia levels are at zero, your fish take is successfully cycled. While this process may be a little demanding, you are sure to get your reward in the end – introducing the beautiful, visually attractive, less hardy fish you have been dreaming of.