The Nitrogen cycle is a process whereby ammonia products, which are secreted by aquatic fishes as waste, are converted by bacteria to and then into Ammonia and nitrite are highly toxic to fish in very low concentrations, so establishing the good bacteria colonies that quickly convert these compounds to nitrate is crucial to creating a healthy environment for fish.
Nitrate are far less toxic, and can easily be removed through periodic water changes or consumption by live plants. Most fish mortality in new tanks can be traced to the lack of an established nitrogen cycle in the tank. Addition of new fishes or overstocking can also affect the Nitrogen Cycle.
Before you introduce fish(s) in your new tank you, be sure that the Nitrogen cycle is in place, meaning, that the aquarium is self sustaining and is capable to disposing the waste. During this time you must closely watch your tank and monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. By monitoring these parameters you will be able to tell when your tank has become habitable for fish.
The Nitrogen Cycle consists of:
Ammonia : The Nitrogen cycle is started when ammonia (NH3) is introduced into the tank as fish waste. This ammonia builds up until the bacteria that eat it start to form a colony (a bacteria bloom may be observed as white cloudiness within the tank), and can convert the ammonia to nitrite as fast as they are produced. When the amount of ammonia spikes, and starts to decline, you know you are going into the second phase of the cycle.
Nitrites : As ammonia starts to decline, you will see the nitrite levels rise then spike. Nitrites are the by-products of the ammonia-eating bacteria, and are also highly toxic to fish. This leads to form a second colony of bacteria that will dispose of Nitrites as they are produced. These bacteria will in turn create nitrate. Once the levels of nitrites and ammonia have reached 0ppm (“parts per million”), your tank is said to have been cycled and you can now introduce fresh fishes in your tank.
Nitrates : Nitrates are the final product of the nitrogen cycle. Nitrates are not toxic to fish in low concentrations, although they become toxic somewhere above 20ppm depending on the species.
In order to start the cycle you could add some organic wastes in little quantity daily and allow it to decompose and check the parameters of Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrites. On in alternative you could add beneficial bacteria, as per the recommendation of the manufacturer, directly into the aquarium to speed up the Nitrogen Cycle. Always introduce the fish(s) in your aquarium in a manner that does not imbalances the equilibrium of the Nitrogen Cycle. Many factors are to be borne in mind while introducing the fishes, viz., the size, the variety (some may be prone to produce more wastes than others) and the size of the aquarium itself. It is advisable that you do some research before introducing the fishes into the aquarium.
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