When it comes to cycling a tank, it refers to the nitrogen cycle that helps sustain life in the tank. It turns the waste products and toxic substances into non-harmful substances hence allowing your fish to have a healthy life.
So, the nitrogen cycle is very important in a tank and you must cycle a tank to make it suitable for your fish. When you are setting up a new tank you need to create a cycle. With the cycle, your tank will gain access to beneficial bacteria or nitrifying bacteria that work as a filter that removes toxic substances from your tank.
You have to cycle your tank to get the nitrifying bacteria to the level that they can start removing the toxic substances from your tank. You also must be patient and not hurry with adding fish to your tank. If your tank has not cycled properly and if you add fish to it, the fish will feel the harmful effects of the toxic substances and can even die. It might sound overwhelming and confusing at first but it is a very simple thing.
There are two ways from which you can cycle your tank. The fishless cycle method and the method by which you will add your fish. Let’s take a proper look into these methods.
The Fishless method to Cycling your Fish Tank
There are some pieces of equipment that you require if you choose to go through this method to cycle your new tank. An aquarium test kit, ammonia, and a de-chlorinator.
You will need an aquarium test kit as the nitrate cycle is something that you will not be able to see with your naked eye. Through the test kit, you have an idea of what is going on inside your tank. So, this kit is a crucial component and you will have to get one for yourself.
You will also need ammonia as you will not have fish and hence no waste materials to generate ammonia. So, you will have to add ammonia by yourself. Although you will need to use pure ammonia and not the others that are scented or have additives as this will disrupt your cycle even before it starts. Also, don’t use fish flakes as it takes too much time.
You will need a de-chlorinator if you intend to use tap water. Tap water contains chlorine that will kill your nitrifying bacteria. So, use this to remove the chlorine from your water thereby helping your nitrifying bacteria to thrive.
After getting equipped with these accessories first you will need to build up your aquarium and place every piece of equipment in place. All your equipment such as filter, heater, air pump, etc you need to place it in your tank. The nitrifying bacteria will require a surface on which it can thrive and the filter is its favorite place.
Turn on all the equipment and keep it on throughout the cycling process. Remember to adjust the temperature between 65 to 85℉ as the bacteria favors this range of temperature and it will grow faster. You will also need to test the pH level of your water. The pH testing kit will come with the aquarium test kit. If the pH level of your water is lower than 7, then you will have to increase the pH level. You will also have to constantly check the pH level throughout the cycling process as the nitrifying bacteria will generate acids that will reduce the pH levels. You can increase the pH level by adding baking soda to your water about 1 teaspoon of it per 5 gallons. You can also do a water change to raise the pH level.
Next, you need to add ammonia as there are no waste materials in your tank for ammonia. For adding ammonia you need to know how much water you have in your tank. With one teaspoon of ammonia in 100 gallons of water, there will be 4ppm of ammonia. So, if you have a tank of fewer than 40 gallons 2ppm of ammonia is the right amount, and if above 40 gallons 4ppm is the right amount. After that leave the ammonia to distribute in the water then test the amount of ammonia. You can do this by using the test kit.
If it comes lower than the required level of ammonia, add more ammonia. If the results show a higher level of ammonia, then you will need to do a water change to bring it to the right amount. After that, all you need to do is wait and keep checking the amount of ammonia whether it is dropping or not. Keep on doing that for at least a week or so.
After a week or so, you will have to check for nitrites. So, get your kit out and test the nitrite levels. If you get good results then that means your cycle has started and the bacteria has appeared. But don’t forget to add ammonia as the bacteria feeds on it.
Add about the half amount of ammonia that you added in the first place and see the nitrite levels rise and make sure the ammonia levels don’t go higher than the recommended levels. Also, don’t forget to test the pH level. Keep on doing this for a few days and you will see that the nitrite levels are reducing.
The reduction of the nitrite levels means that nitrifying bacteria have appeared that feed on nitrite. Keep on adding ammonia every day and keep the ammonia level above 1ppm. As you add ammonia keep on testing for nitrite and ammonia levels.
If the readings show 0 levels of ammonia and nitrite then your cycle is finally complete. After this add one teaspoon of ammonia and let the cycle do its work. Check again after a day or so and if it shows 0 levels of ammonia and nitrite then your nitrite cycle is complete. After this, you can introduce fish to your tank and your fish will not face any harm.
The method with Fishes for Cycling your Fish Tank
If you already have got fish with you and you need to start a cycle for your tank then this method is for you.
First and foremost, you will need to set up your tank. Get all your accessories ready and install them where they should be. You will need a filter, heater, plants, gravel, etc. When it comes to plants add live plants to your tank as it will already have bacteria that can oxidize the ammonia. If you already have a tank you can use the already established equipment such as filter and gravel. Using these will speed up the cycling process as they will have nitrifying bacteria on them.
After you’ve got everything in place start by adding a few amounts of fish to your tank. As there are few amounts of nitrifying bacteria and adding a large amount of fish at first will flood your tank with toxic ammonia with the waste products being produced in huge amounts. You are recommended to use fishes like Danios, Tetras or Barbs. Then you will need to feed your fish but not in large quantities. Feed them a specific amount and not more than what they require. The leftover particles can also decay and produce ammonia, therefore, leading to huge amounts of toxic substances.
Then what you will need to do is keep changing water recurringly. The amount of water that you will need to change is around 10-25% and replace it with fresh water and not tap water. If your tank is of the saltwater type you will also need to add saline. The last requirement is to keep testing levels of ammonia and nitrite in the water. Make sure the ammonia level is below 0.5 mg per litre and the nitrite level is below 1mg per litre. If it goes above go for a water change.
Keep on testing and when the ammonia and nitrite levels drop to zero that indicates your cycle is complete. Then you can start adding more fish to your tank. But don’t add a huge amount of fish at once. Add two or three per every week or so. With this, your bacteria will slowly adjust to the amount of fish in your tank and perform their job properly.