Cycling your fish tank is necessary to ensure a healthy life for your fish and other invertebrates. The process of cycling the fish tank means the production of beneficial bacteria that converts ammonia into nitrite into nitrate.
Ammonia can be very harmful to your fish and can make them suffer from a life-threatening condition. Cycling your tank eliminate such harmful toxins from the tank and help to provide your fish a good living condition. So, How to cycle a fish tank? Let us find out.
Follow these steps to cycle your fish tank:
- Set up your tank by adding a filter, gravel, heater, and an air pump.
- Fill up the tank with water. (Make sure to dechlorinate the water using a water conditioner)
- Add a few drops of ammonia liquid in your fish tank and maintain it within 3-5ppm.
- Wait until ammonia changes into nitrite, which will happen in the next 2-3 weeks.
- Keep maintaining the ammonia and nitrite and wait for the next 2-3 weeks for nitrate to occur.
- When you add ammonia to the tank, and after 24 hours, you notice 0ppm ammonia, nitrite, and some nitrate level, your tank has cycled.
This article will also discuss how we can cycle the fish tank with fish in it and without fish in it in detail. Also, we will discuss how to take care of a tank after been cycled. So, let us get into it.
- 1 How can we cycle our fish tank?
- 2 Step-by-step guide for cycling the fish tank.
- 2.1 Cycling your fish tank without fish:
- 2.1.1 Step 1. Get your fish tank ready by setting it up.
- 2.1.2 Step 2. Add an ammonia source to your fish tank.
- 2.1.3 Step 3. Wait for ammonia to spike.
- 2.1.4 Step 4. Keep maintaining the ammonia level and watch for nitrite to occur.
- 2.1.5 Step 5. Keep maintaining the ammonia and nitrite levels and look for nitrate to occur.
- 2.1.6 Step 6. Look for 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite, and some nitrate. (The last stage)
- 2.2 Cycling fish tank with fish.
- 2.1 Cycling your fish tank without fish:
- 3 How can we speed up the cycling process of our fish tank?
- 4 What should we look for before adding fish to our tank?
- 5 How to take care of a tank once it is cycled?
- 6 Conclusion:
How can we cycle our fish tank?
Cycling our fish tank is necessary to develop beneficial bacteria in our system that helps in breaking down harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrite.
Adding fish to your new tank without cycling can result in your fish passing away because of elevated ammonia and nitrite in the water.
So, it is very important to cycle your fish tank before adding fish.
There are two ways to cycle our fish tank.
One way is cycling the fish tank by adding a fish, and one is cycling the fish tank without adding fish.
The best option to cycle your fish tank is cycling without adding fish.
Cycling the fish tank without fish is preferred by most aquarists because, in this method, fish are not forced to undergo the process, and it doesn’t harm anybody.
Let us now discuss a step-by-step guide for cycling the fish tank in these two ways.
Step-by-step guide for cycling the fish tank.
Cycling your tank is easy when you follow the steps right.
It is time-consuming but necessary to ensure your fish’s and other invertebrates’ well-being.
So, as we discussed above, there are two ways to cycle your fish tank, one is with fish, and one is without fish.
Let us discuss a step-to-step guide for cycling the fish tank following the:
- Without fish method
- And with a fish method
Cycling your fish tank without fish:
Step 1. Get your fish tank ready by setting it up.
Before starting the cycling process, you have to set up your fish tank to fulfill the needs of the equipment needed for completing the cycle.
You will require all these things for setting up your fish tank:
- A heater
- A filter
- An air pump
A heater is required as it will help you maintain the water temperature of your fish tank.
You have to maintain the water temperature between 75-85 °F to ensure that the beneficial bacteria thrive in your fish tank.
Inadequate water temperature will stop the beneficial bacteria from growing.
A filter is necessary as the beneficial bacteria colonize in the filter.
An air pump will keep the tank well-oxygenated as beneficial bacteria require the well-oxygenated tank to thrive.
Step 2. Add an ammonia source to your fish tank.
Cycling your fish tank means changing ammonia into nitrite into nitrate.
You will require ammonia in your fish tank to start the cycling process.
Firstly treat the water with a water conditioner to eliminate chlorine and chloramine from the tap water.
Now, you can introduce ammonia in your fish tank by adding fish food or directly adding ammonia.
When you add food to your fish tank, the food will rot and produce ammonia.
Adding a few drops of ammonia liquid will develop ammonia in your fish tank.
Directly adding an ammonia liquid is the faster way here to cycle the fish tank.
Step 3. Wait for ammonia to spike.
Now all you have to do is wait for ammonia to occur in your tank.
It will take 10-15 minutes for ammonia to occur in your fish tank.
Use an aquarium test kit to test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your fish tank.
We suggest the API freshwater master test kit to look for the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH level of your fish tank as it shows accurate results.
You can buy it from amazon: API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT.
Make sure to maintain the ammonia level between 3-5ppm ( not less or above that).
If the ammonia is lesser than 3ppm, add a few more drops to increase the level.
And, if the ammonia level is more than 5ppm, perform a partial water change of 30% to eliminate excess ammonia from the tank.
You have to maintain this level for 2-3 weeks.
If the ammonia rises or falls between these weeks, perform a water change or add a few more drops of ammonia in the tank, whatever is required.
Step 4. Keep maintaining the ammonia level and watch for nitrite to occur.
After two-three weeks of maintaining the ammonia level between 3-5ppm, start looking for nitrite.
When you add ammonia drops to the tank, after a couple of hours, you will notice that the ammonia level is decreasing and nitrite is occurring.
This is a good sign as it means that the cycle is going well, and we have reached our second stage, where nitrite is occurring in the tank.
Here, don’t stop and keep maintaining the ammonia level between 3-5ppm.
Also, ensure that the nitrite level is within the 5ppm level.
If the nitrite level crosses 5ppm, perform a partial water change again to eliminate excess nitrite.
Step 5. Keep maintaining the ammonia and nitrite levels and look for nitrate to occur.
Now all you have to do is maintain the ammonia between 3-5ppm, nitrite below 5ppm, and look for nitrate.
You have to look for nitrate levels to occur in your fish tank regularly every day.
You will start noticing nitrate levels in your fish tank after 2-3 weeks when nitrite occurs in your fish tank.
Nitrate in your fish tank is a good sign as the nitrite is changing into nitrate, which tells us that we have completed stage 3.
At this stage, maintain ammonia at 3-5ppm, nitrite below 5ppm, and nitrate at 40-45ppm.
Step 6. Look for 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite, and some nitrate. (The last stage)
Now, when you have all ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your fish tank, the last stage is to eliminate them.
So, after adding ammonia to your fish tank, you see that the ammonia and nitrate stay at 0ppm and nitrate at some level after 24 hours or less; you have completed your cycling process.
Cycling fish tank with fish.
The first step for cycling the tank with fish is to set up the tank as we do when cycling the tank without fish.
Now, follow these steps to cycle your tank with fish:
- Add a few fish to your fish tank. (One inch of fish for every 10 gallons is good.)
- Start feeding them less food as there will not be many beneficial bacteria in the fish tank to feed on fish waste.
- Increase the feeding amount slowly for the next 3-4 weeks as slowly beneficial bacteria will occur in the tank.
- Keep checking the ammonia and nitrite levels and if you find ammonia of more than 0.5ppm in the tank, perform a partial water change.
- Avoid adding any extra fish to your tank until the ammonia and nitrite remain at zero after feeding an adequate amount of food to your fish every day.
- If the nitrate level reaches above 40 ppm, perform a water change of 20%.
- Slowly the nitrite and ammonia will be at 0ppm, and nitrate will be at some level.
- Your cycle is completed, and now you can consider adding more fish to your tank.
You can consider adding fishes like tetras, guppies, and catfish to cycle your tank.
Make sure not to overcrowd or add much fish at a time, as it will create a load on beneficial bacteria, and they will not be able to eliminate that much ammonia from the tank.
How can we speed up the cycling process of our fish tank?
Some ways can speed up the cycling process of your tank.
You can do all these things to ensure faster cycling of your fish tank:
- Add the gravel of a cycled tank to your new tank.
- Use established biofilter media in your new filter.
- Use cycled filter in your new tank.
- Use live aquatic plants from a well-established tank.
- Install the filter in a cycled tank and run it alongside the established filter.
- Add nitrifying bacteria to your new fish tank.
Now, there is a chance that you end up bringing harmful bacteria, pests, and algae which can pollute your new tank conditions.
However, these all issues are easily recoverable, so you have to take this much risk for boosting your cycling process.
What should we look for before adding fish to our tank?
We should consider some things when adding fish to our tank.
The most necessary thing we have to ensure when adding fish to the tank is that we don’t end up overcrowding the tank.
Overcrowding the tank means adding excessive fish to the tank.
Overcrowding your tank will result in excessive waste production, which can lead to an ammonia spike.
To ensure you are not overcrowding your fish tank, follow the one-inch one-gallon rule.
The one-inch one-gallon rule means one inch of fish per gallon of water.
The second necessary thing is ensuring good water conditions before adding fish to your tank.
Consider adding fish to your tank only when the ammonia and nitrite are at 0ppm.
Also, ensure clean water conditions by performing a partial water change of 30-35% before adding fish.
The water parameters are a must, as every fish will require their ideal water parameters to thrive.
Also read: How Many Fish In A 10-Gallon Tank?
How to take care of a tank once it is cycled?
Once the tank is cycled and ready to add fish into it, you should ensure and take care of all these things:
- Only add a few fish at a time.
- Perform a regular water change of at least 35% to ensure good water conditions.
- Keep a regular check on ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate level.
- Perform monthly maintenance of your tank by cleaning the glass, filter, and gravel.
- Whenever performing a water change, use a water conditioner to eliminate chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals from the tank.
- Keep the tank clean by avoiding overfeeding your fish. (Feed your fish in such quantity that they can finish eating in one to two minutes).
Also read: How To Treat Ammonia Poisoning In Fish?
There are two ways you can follow to cycle your fish tank: with fish and without fish.
The most efficient and good way is cycling your tank without fish.
Now you can use food or direct ammonia liquid to produce ammonia in your fish tank and start the process.
A faster way is to add ammonia liquid. Add an ammonia liquid to your newly set up tank and start the process.
Keep maintaining the ammonia and wait for nitrite to occur.
You will notice nitrite after 2-3 weeks; after that, keep maintaining ammonia and nitrite and wait for nitrate to occur.
Once you notice ammonia and nitrite at 0ppm and nitrate at some levels after adding ammonia to your fish tank, your tank is cycled.
You can use gravel, plants, and filter media from the established tank or add nitrifying bacteria to your new tank to speed up the process.