Cycling Your Aquarium

Before adding fish to any aquarium, it is important to make sure that the tank has been properly cycled. This means that there are good bacteria in the tank/filter system that can break down the ammonia produced by the fish waste into less harmful nitrates. While plants can help with nitrogen, it is important to have a strong colony of bacteria in your tank to ensure that the levels do not fluctuate.

Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle:

Graphic of Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle
Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle, Source: Wikipedia Commons

Properly Cycling Your Aquarium:

To cycle your aquarium and ensure that it is safe to add fish into the tank it is essential to spur the growth of a healthy nitrifying bacteria colony. There are many ways to do this, the most effective way being to use a quick start formulated product that contains these bacteria and nitrogen. If you already have an aquarium and you are setting up another one, you can use the existing biological filter media in the new tank, however, often to prevent the potential spread of disease it is recommended that when starting a new tank to use a quick start nitrifying bacteria product.

Once you have added the water and water treatment it’s important to have a test kit to monitor the water parameters: pH, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates etc. This will enable you to ensure consistency for your aquarium and ensure that the water is perfect for your tank inhabitants.

There are many products out there and we have listed a few that will effectively and quickly build up a healthy colony of nitrifying bacteria so that you can get started sooner adding fish and other aquatic life to your aquarium.

It is important to make water safe prior to adding fish to your aquarium. To help you decide on which water cycling kit to use we have listed down and described a few of the best available test kits on the market.

Quick Start Product Reviews:

1. API Quick Start Water Conditioner

API makes great products for the aquarium and prices them affordability. API Quick Start is the best method to prepare your aquarium for fish. The product claims that fish can be added instantly after adding quick start; however, we still recommend waiting at least a week before adding fish so that your aquarium can establish a healthy colony of nitrifying bacteria. This product can also be used when changing water and when adding new fish to the aquarium to ensure that your aquarium inhabitants stay healthy.

Image: API Quick Start Bottle

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2. Dr. Tim’s Aquatics One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria for Cycling Aquaria

Dr. Tim’s One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria is another product used to cycle an aquarium prior to adding fish. The product claims that fish can be added immediately; however, just like any of the quick starts we recommend waiting at least a week if not two before adding any fish to your aquarium. Dr. Tim’s is a bit more expensive per ounce than the API Quick Start and seems to work just as well.

Image: Bottle Dr. Tim's One and Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria

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3. SeaChem Prime

SeaChem Prime is the liquid version of SeaChem Safe, both of which prepared water for the addition of fish. The SeaChem Prime is a top of the line product and is more expensive than the API and Dr. Tim’s products. Similar to the other quick start products, SeaChem Prime helps break down nitrogen compounds in the water and helps healthy bacteria colonies grow. Using this product ensures the safe addition of fish and it can also be used when adding fish or changing water.

Image: Bottle SeaChem Prime

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4. Tetra SafeStart Water Treatment

Tetra SafeStart Water Treatment is another great product for preparing your aquarium for fish. As with the other products we recommend waiting at least a week after adding water treatment before adding fish to your aquarium. This allows for the growth of healthy bacteria colonies that control the levels of nitrogen in the tank. This product comes in an 8oz size and a 3oz, per ounce it falls between the price of the API and Dr. Tim’s.Tetra SafeStart

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There are many ways to test the water in your aquarium to ensure it is safe for fish. To help you decide on which test kit to use we have listed down and described a few of the best available test kits on the market.

1. API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit

The API Freshwater Master Kit is the be all end all aquarium test kit. With tests for pH, Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates this kit has it all for an aquarium owner. Using the kit is simple, just add a little aquarium water to a test tube and add drops of the test solution. Then compare thecolor to provided test cards. That’s it! The kit comes with 800 tests so you can keep this kit for a long time without having to purchase a new one.

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2. Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1 Test Strips

Tetra EasyStrips are simple test strips that can be dipped directly into the aquarium to test for chlorine, ammonia nitrate, nitrite, GH, KH, and pH. This kit comes in packs of 100 strips. A little less expensive than the API Master Kit; however, it is more expensive than the API 5-in-1 test strips. This kit is great if you need to measure water hardness in addition to pH and Nitrogen levels. Water hardness usually effects invertebrates, like shrimp and crabs more than it does for fish. All in all the Tetra EasyStrips are a quick and effective way to measure the parameters of your water.Tetra Easy Strips 6-in-1

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3. API 5-IN-1 TEST STRIPS Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Test Strips

Similar to the Tetra Easy Strips, the API 5-IN-1 works by directly dipping the test strips into the aquarium. The API kit comes in packs of 4, 25, and 100 and monitors pH, nitrate, and water hardness. API recommends that these strips are used weekly to monitor water quality to prevent invisible water problems from effecting fish.API Test Strips 5 in 1Click Here for Pricing, Pictures, and Reviews on Amazon.com

 

 

4. JNW Direct 7 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips, Best Kit for Accurate Water Quality Testing for Saltwater & Freshwater Aquariums and Fish Ponds, 150 Strip MEGA PACK

The JNW Direct 7-IN-1 Aquarium test strips come in packs of 150 and measure water hardness, chlorine, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and alkalinity. Like the other test strips mentioned the test strips are dipped directly into the aquarium for measurement. Furthermore, the JNW Direct product comes with a lifetime money back guarantee. This kit is priced well for the quantity of strips it contains meaning this product will last over two years (based on a once a week testing cycle).JNW Direct Aquarium Test Strips

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Important tip:

Remember, it is better to have consistent water parameters than having perfect parameters. This means that if your tap water tends to be more acidic that’s okay, your fish will acclimatize to the level as long as it remains consistent! Therefore, we at AquariumEdge recommend that you don’t adjust levels of other parameters except for Nitrogen and phosphates, unless you are keeping very sensitive species.

Conclusion:

It is important to start out an aquarium right by allowing microscopic bacteria to grow in the aquarium prior to adding fish. This prevents the loss of fish and enables your aquarium to flourish for years to come. Additionally, it is just as important to regularly test the water parameters of your aquarium to prevent invisible issues from harming your fish and other aquarium inhabitants. Using a simple test kit and the right products will save you money in the long-run and provide easy aquarium maintenance.