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NEW TANK SETUP GUIDE / THE NITROGEN CYCLE

SETTING UP YOUR NEW TANK

 

This page is intended to be a brief introduction to the processes that occur in a new aquarium and assumes you have already talked to our helpful staff who have assisted in selecting an aquarium and equipment that is suitable for the fish you wish to keep.

 

  • Make sure all of your equipment has been assembled and each component is running properly.

  • Rinse gravel and rocks thoroughly in clean, fresh water. It is easier to plant aquarium plants when there is only a few inches of water in the tank.

  • Fill your aquariums and add the required amount of water conditioner/dechlorinator.

  • Set your aquarium heater to 26 degrees Celsius and let the aquarium water heat up over night. If you're unsure what temperature your fish require, please ask us.

  • Once everything is ready, take a sample of your water [about 200mL] and bring it to us for testing. If your water parameters are correct, you can begin stocking your tank
     

 

THE NITROGEN CYCLE

 

In an aquarium, bacterial colonies within the biological filter make the water safe for the fish by removing the harmful chemicals ammonia and nitrite, and converting them into the less harmful chemical nitrate. This process is called the nitrogen cycle - the conversion of toxic ammonia [from respiration, faeces and uneaten food] into toxic nitrite [via Nitrasomas bacteria], which is then converted into far less toxic nitrate [via Nitrobacter bacteria].

 

The end of this cycle is the removal of this nitrate by water changes, as large quantities of nitrate can cause stress related infection as well as stunting the growth of your fish. An understanding of the nitrogen cycle is important to aquarists, if it is properly managed it will eliminate many problems encountered by the novice.

STARTING THE CYCLE

 

It takes 3-5 weeks for the bacteria required by the nitrogen cycle to develop in the filter. If you have too many fish initially, the ammonia and nitrite levels will rise too fast because of a lack of bacteria to break them down. The fish cannot tolerate these high levels of toxins and they become ill and die.

 

We recommend adding only a small number of fish initially, to allow the bacteria time to multiply to cope with the added waste. Food should also be fed sparingly for the same reason. During this establishment period, regular partial water changes of approx 20-30% should be performed to ensure any toxins that are not converted due to a lack of bacteria are diluted. Filters should be left alone during this period to avoid destroying developing bacteria.

 

You can use test kits to monitor the progress during the tanks establishment period. Test the pH level, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate content of your water. After you have observed the full nitrogen cycle, it will be safe to add more fish to your tank. If you bring us a 300mL sample of your water we can test it for you free of charge and guide you through this process helping you understand it fully.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

  • Fish, like people, are not always compatible and cannot all live together, so always ask if the fish you already have are compatible with the ones you intend on adding.
     

  • Filters should only ever be cleaned using old aquarium water to prevent killing of essential bacteria. Only a portion of the filter media should be changed at any time, never all. Never use hot water, untreated tap water or detergents.