courtesy of yasa_
Fish Keeping for the Complete Beginner :)
So, you bought a 10 gallon starter kit, got some (probably bad) advice from the people at the pet store, threw in some fish, and got ready to enjoy your aquarium...only to find out that it’s a lot more complicated than you thought! This is not the best way to set up a new tank, but it is what 95% of us have done. If you feel lost or totally confused, this blog is for you! By the end you should have a basic understanding of the nitrogen cycle, and know what to do to keep your fish alive until you get through it!
*The Nitrogen Cycle*
Just like us, fish produce waste when they breathe and when they excrete. This is usually in the form of ammonia. Excess food and rotting plant matter can also produce ammonia. We use ammonia in cleaners because it is toxic. Too much ammonia will kill your fish. Thankfully, some bacteria will eat ammonia!
This is the first step in your cycle. Once ammonia is present in your tank, either from fish waste or some other source, bacteria will begin to grow that eats the ammonia. This bacteria produces nitrites as waste. Unfortunately, nitrites are also toxic. Thankfully, a different kind of bacteria will eat nitrites!
This is step two of your cycle! Once, your ammonia eating bacteria is established, nitrites will show up in your tank, and bacteria will start growing to eat nitrites! This nitrite-eating bacteria produces nitrates as waste. Thankfully, nitrates are less toxic than ammonia or nitrites, and a third kind of bacteria will grow that eats *some* of the nitrates.
Once this process is complete, so long as you keep up with routine maintenance, your tank is good to go!
*Monitoring the Nitrogen Cycle*
So how will you know when all this happens? The *best* way is to purchase an API Master Kit (freshwater). This will let you test your water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. You should probably also by some Prime water conditioner (by Seachem) to help you through the cycle.
When you are testing your water, you should see your ammonia start to rise. As your bacteria grows, ammonia will go up, then down to zero. Then you will see nitrites. Then nitrites will go up, and then down to zero. Then nitrates will go up. At this point, if you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and you do a water change to get your nitrates under 40, your tank is cycled and you are ready to go!
*Keeping Your Fish Alive During the Cycle*
As previously mentioned, ammonia and nitrite are toxic...so how do you keep your fish alive through this process? WATER CHANGES!
There are two schools of thought on this process. One is that you should do a 25 percent partial water change whenever your ammonia or nitrites reaches .50 parts per million (ppm).
The other is that you should use a water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia and nitrites (such as Prime), and do a water change whenever your ammonia or nitrites reaches 1.0 ppm.
I think, in terms of completing your cycle, that it is better to go the 2nd route. This way your bacteria can grow faster, and as long as you are diligent about monitoring your water and adding Prime (it will detoxify ammonia/nitrites for approximately a day and half), it is better to wait and do water changes less frequently.
It seems like a lot of work, but don’t be intimidated! The reality of the situation is that you will probably do a couple of small water changes per week for a few weeks. After that, you can do a 25 percent water change once per week and (assuming you haven’t over-stocked your tank), it should (pretty much) be smoothe sailing from there!
Good luck and hope that helps!