There has been a raging debate for years now about the validity of “rapidly” cycling an aquarium utilizing true nitrifying bacteria bacteria from a bottle. Ironically, this debate comes more than 30 years after this process became the mainstream in commercial applications. We will get to the bottom of this argument in the form of a mock court case: Time vs. Colony True Nitrifying Bacteria.

Through this court case we will hear cross examination by the skeptic team called “Time” and testimony from “Colony”, which represents those who either use or distribute real true nitrifying bacteria every day.

“Time” has a good right to their case considering many products in the past have claimed to establish bio-filtration but could not because they did not contain true nitrifying bacteria. Colony will gladly take the cross examination of rapid e practice of “rapidly cycling” from pre-cultured bacteria  cycling as well as hear the complaints of the victims of prior failed products. Through this we hope to help move toward setting straight the truth of rapid cycling. Hopefully this mock trial will be an educational exercise and help the fundamental understanding of all applications of nitrifying bacteria in the aquarium hobby.

The purpose of this exercise is not to eliminate a long cycle as a proper form of establishing bio-filtration, but to verify that rapid cycling is also. Emjoy!


Time: “What is a ‘rapid cycle’, Colony… if that’s even your real name!”

Colony: “Rapid cycle is an expedient propagation of nitrifying bacteria to rapidly establish bio-filtration in an aquarium. Sometimes it is called “instant cycle” in the industry.  The term ‘instant’ is relative. In relation to several weeks, a few days is consider ‘instant’.”

Time: “But bacteria have to be grown over time. We’re talking weeks! You can’t speed up nature”

Colony: “Nature hasn’t been sped up. Bio-filtration is about bacteria numbers, not time. If I’ve already got the numbers to start with, what am I waiting around for now?”

Time: “Okay I’ll give you that. But I read on an internet forum that bottled bacteria doesn’t work.”

Colony: “They can argue with the public and private aquariums, aquaculture operations, seafood distribution operations, waste water plants, aquaponic operations and more who use me or formulas like me for their applications every day. The argument that I can work for these applications but will not work on a freshwater or marine home aquarium is, well, a little hard to believe.”

Time: “I still don’t trust importing bacteria. Better its grown in the aquarium.”

Colony: “Why can we import fish but not bacteria? Why can we import salt but not bacteria? Why can we import rocks, sand, food, and everything else in the aquarium but not bacteria? See, nitrifying bacteria don’t have a special thing about them that prevents them from being importable from a bottle. Not one thing. In fact, this process is far less risky for nitrifying bacteria than it is for the fish themselves, and people don’t have any problems with that! “

Time: “But they can’t survive in the bottle because there’s no food there. The resident expert at my internet forum said so.”

Colony: “Your resident expert is mistaken. Nitrifying bacteria do not require food in the bottle. They are aerobic autotrophs, meaning they depend on oxygen for eating and division, not directly necessary for living. Oxygen depletes in a bottle. When this happens the bacteria don’t have to eat because their metabolism is slowed so that they can survive months and months in a bottle without eating. Once they enter the aquarium they are exposed to oxygen again and are ready to eat.”

Time: “I tried a bacteria product and it didn’t work. What do you say to that?”

Colony: “Like in any other market place, not all products are created equally.  Assuming the product is a real autotroph product and wasn’t damaged or compromised, give me your water parameters and we’ll likely find the reason. You do know that, like fish, bacteria also have certain conditions in which they thrive or fail? This rule applies to ‘long’ cycle or ‘rapid’ cycle.”

Time: “Well, no. I wasn’t aware of proper nitrifying bacteria water parameters. I’ve never been told.”

Colony: “Well, there are conditions that must be met in order for nitrifying bacteria to establish successfully in a system. Because water is different from place to place, it explains why two people in different places can follow the same basic procedure while only one gets a successful cycle (slow or rapid) in a freshwater aquarium. They are dealing with different water and different pH and alkalinity variables. Knowing about your local water goes a long way toward producing a successful set-up.”

Time: “A ha!! You’re only talking about freshwater systems! What about marine?”

Colony: “Well, actually it is much easier to apply me in marine systems. Because marine hobbyists usually use R/O water and a salt mix, the environment remains very consistent from aquarium to aquarium, unlike freshwater.”

Time: “Live rock works just as well.”

Colony: “Yes it certainly can if it is a quality piece. Why is it okay to import bacteria on a rock but not out of a bottle? Nitrifying bacteria do not need a rock nearby in order to live or survive transportation. Nitrifying bacteria are not a phenomenon exclusive to home aquariums either. You can pretty much grow them anywhere that has water quality that they like, a comfy surface, and a food source. This is not as complicated as so many think it is.”

Time: “Are you saying use Colony instead of live rock?”

Colony: “No. I don’t come with rocks.”

Time: “Very funny. So why use that instead of live rock?”

Colony: “You don’t have to use it instead of rock. Use them both if you like. You’ll just end up with even more bacteria. The whole point is to take the guess work out of it, but I am the safest route, scientifically speaking. Not only are my bacteria counted, they haven’t been exposed to another system that could transmit something harmful to the new system.”

As one can see, the truth about rapid cycling is far less grandiose as Time likes to make it.  It is also a far less sensitive dynamic than myths proclaim. As hobbyists begin to finally learn more and more about nitrifying bacteria and how they relate to an aquarium bio-filter, the better the understanding of “rapid cycling” we will have universally.  If you have any questions at all about Colony, rapid cycling, or the material presented on this page don’t hesitate to inquire at!



Get the latest from ATM Aquarium Products

You have Successfully Subscribed!