Aquarium Cycling


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So you want to cycle a new aquarium, eh? This is, no doubt, hobbyist’s least favorite step in aquarium keeping. This step probably promotes more questions, confusion, frustration, and giving up than any other. ATM views cycling differently. We actually think it is fun! Why? Because it is more simple than many like to make it seem. Cycling, be it the long way or instantly, is systematic and has certain rules and parameters that provide a logical check list on how to get a cycle established every time. At ATM, aquarium cycling is an extremely important step of custom installations. So what is aquarium cycling? It goes like this:

What Is Cycling?

The term “cycling” is defined by establishing biological filtration in the aquarium. Biological filtration, or the “biofilter”, is made up of bacteria that filter out the toxic ammonia from the aquarium via a process called “nitrification”. Nitrification is a two-bacteria strain process that turns toxic ammonia ultimately to nitrate. One bacteria serves as an “ammonia converter” that turns ammonia to nitrite. The other strain serves as the “nitrite converter” that turns the nitrite into nitrate, the end of the process. What we will do for the sake of this article is encourage you to think less of bacteria in terms of “microbes”, and more in terms of “livestock”. It is no more required to have a PHD in microbiology to understand and apply knowledge about nitrifying bacteria as it is your fish. So we will treat them like your fish and think of them as “livestock”, because after all that really is what they are. They have their own requirements, conditions, and care that must be practiced just like the live stock you can see.

How Do I Get Them?

Nitrifying bacteria don’t just “happen” in the aquarium, or in other words, just appear immaculately, although sometimes cycling is incorrectly approached this way. Like everything else in your aquarium they must be imported from somewhere else into a new aquarium, even if it’s just a handful. They can be imported from media or objects from another system but most often they arrive in or on the fish themselves if media isn’t used. In order to start this colony of livestock, only one of each strain is required: One ammonia converter and one nitrite converter. So like everything else that will end up in your aquarium, they are imported.

Let’s just say that in a system cycled only by introducing starter fish, one of each bacteria fall off and stick on some new media in the system. Starting with a population of 2 and with a division rate of once every 24 hours, with proper conditions and enough food to support it by the end of 40 days you will have a population of 549,755,813,888! With a flourishing colony your ammonia and nitrite will be at or around 0ppm with present nitrates and your aquarium is cycled.

The faster, and no less effective cycle, is to directly import nitrifying bacteria with a product such as ATM’s Colony. While importing media from another system can establish biofiltration, using a biological proudct such as Colony works just as good and usually better because you know you have the amount of nitrifying bacteria needed in every bottle. Such information isn’t provided on a chunk of live rock. Colony also carries zero risk of transmitting any harmful viruses or pathogens that could be residing in other systems. Colony introduces millions of real, living nitrifying bacteria that gets the cycle done fast. The other benefit of this method is that you become aware of any possible water chemistry issues that could be hampering the performance and growth of nitrifying bacteria. It’s better to find this out in the first few days than 4-5 weeks later! cont…

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