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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why does An Aquarium Need To Cycle: The Nitrogen Cycle

The process of cycling an aquarium is important. But why?

In this article, I would like to explore why we cycle our tank and why certain chemicals are important to monitor using a test kit.

In order for fish to survive, there have to be certain elements in the water (or the absence thereof).  The three main chemicals that are involved in the nitrogen cycle are: Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates. These three chemicals go through a cycle known as the nitrogen cycle.

The cycle in an aquarium starts off by fish being present in the aquarium. The fish eat food and the waste products from the fish turn into ammonia. The ammonia is then converted into Nitrites. Eventually the Nitrites turn into Nitrates. These Nitrates are then used by the plants in the aquarium in the photosynthesis process and in return the plants release oxygen.

If there aren't any live plants in the aquarium, the nitrates are removed by you when the  aquarium is cleaned.

If you would like to learn how to cycle your aquarium, please check out this link: How to Cycle A Freshwater Aquarium Without Using Any Fish

What is Ammonia and why do I test for Ammonia?

- Ammonia is the what the fish waste turns into when it decomposes. If fish food is left behind in the aquarium this also decomposes and turns to ammonia.

-The reason why you need to test for ammonia is because any amount of ammonia left in the aquarium can be deadly for fish. If the high ammonia content doesn't kill the fish, it can cause ammonia burns and can affect the way your fish breathes. There should be no ammonia in the tank. If you test and there is ammonia present, then it is time to clean the aquarium. If you would like help on cleaning your aquarium, please check this link out:How to Clean A freshwater Aquarium

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If you have cleaned your aquarium and still have problems getting rid of ammonia I suggest that you use ammo lock or Amquel Plus.

What are Nitrites and why do I test for them?

-After the ammonia breaks down it converts into nitrites.

-The reason why we test for nitrites is to see where in the nitrogen cycle the aquarium is currently at. If there is also a lot of nitrites in the aquarium, it can be deadly for the fish as well. Nitrites will rise after there has been a spike of ammonia.

Water changes will help rid the aquarium of nitrites. You may also use aquarium salt; 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons. A chemical that also may assist you in lowering the level of nitrites is Amquel Plus; This chemical rids the aquarium of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

What are Nitrates and why do I test for them?

-Nitrates are the final product of the nitrogen cycle before the cycle continues. Nitrates are converted nitrites. Small traces of nitrates might not be as deadly to your fish but can cause other things, such as algae blooms, and algae blooms can kill your invertebrates.

The best way to get rid of nitrates is to clean the aquarium. If you have cleaned the aquarium and the levels still haven't dropped down, you can use Amquel Plus.

No particular chemical in the aquarium should have any high readings whatsoever. It is very important to make sure that each and every chemical is under control.

Well I hope I have helped you understand the importance of the nitrogen cycle and why its important to test your water.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! :)


0957bcda-ea59-11e0-a211-000bcdcb471e said...

I have a 29 gal community tank for about a month already, 6 plants and 24 small fish. I do weekly water changes, when I tested the water it shows that everything is good except the nitrite alone is really high. My nitrate is at 0 and my ammonia is at 0 but my nitrite is at 9-1o. Does this mean that my tank is not cycled yet? I just started to use the amquel plus yesterday and I don't see any changes to the nitrite. What should I do next? Please help...

Mrs. JayMay said...

Sorry for the late response.

It sounds like your tank could be cycling. Have you had any fish casualties? Fish sometimes die off when you are cycling a tank with fish.

A good way to reduce the nitrites is to do a 50% water change.

Keep me posted! :)