Cycling a New Aquarium

Cycling an aquarium refers to the step in aquarium set up where you are encourging the growth of beneficial nitrifying bacteria in order to establish a functional Nitrogen Cycle to help break down fish waste. There are several ways this can be done and pros and cons for each method. The most common techniques we'll discuss here. 

Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen is an important element found in nature and is critical for many biologic functions. The nitrogen cycle is the natural process by which nitrogen compounds are converted between various forms. Gathering a basic understanding of how the nitrogen cycle works can help you keep your fish or aquatic turtle healthy and happy.

Treating Alkalinity Problems in Aquariums and Ponds

Alkalinity is a measure of the water’s ability to buffer the pH to provide stability and avoid rapid changes in pH that could adversely affect the health of the animals in the water.  It is one of the more important but most often overlooked parameters to monitor for healthy water quality in a system.  Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is the compound that has the most effect on alkalinity, but sodium, bicarbonate and other compounds play more minor roles.  Good quality kits are available from companies like Salifert and Red Sea to test alkalinity by adding drops to the water sample in a test tube.

Correcting Water Quality Problems

Problems with the Nitrogen Cycle

Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates measure the biological filter in a system.  Elevations in any of these parameters with normal pH and alkalinity indicates a problems with biological filtration (see related article: The Importance of Water Quality Testing on this website).  Mild elevations in all parameters are generally easy to fix, but there are some special cases described below that are far more concerning.