How to Cycle a Saltwater Tank

It’s an amazing project to set up a new saltwater aquarium. If you’re anything like us, you can’t wait to start adding fish, corals, and other invertebrates to your reef. A newly built up aquarium does not have the biological maturity to manage a full load of reef animals.

New tanks require time to establish a biological base.

This period of maturation referred to the aquariors as a cycle. When you cycle a fresh tank, you’re effectively cultivating the bacteria that drive the nitrogen cycle forward. These bacteria break down organic waste in your aquarium, making it safe for the fish and other animals that live there. Your aquarium will not thrive without this bacterial basis. These minuscule bacteria break down organic matter, eliminate waste products like ammonia, and recycle nutrients.

Inside your tank, these micro-driven processes commonly referred to as biological filtration. Depending on the conditions in your tank, they can contain a wide range of bacterial species. Nitrifying bacteria such as Nitrosomonas, Nitrobacter, and Nitrospira can found in your aquarium. Along with a slew of other people. The most crucial thing to remember is that each tank is unique. The microorganisms that live in and dominate your aquarium will be one-of-a-kind.

Fish emit the poison ammonia through their gills, however ammonia can also found in the aquarium as organic debris decomposes.

When solid fish and invert excrement, as well as uneaten food, decompose, the poison ammonia released into the water. The nitrogen cycle and the microbes that drive it are to thank. In the aquarium, the poison ammonia does not build up. Two species of nitrifying bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle, which is a two-step process. Ammonia converted to nitrite in the first stage by bacteria known as ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, or AOB for short.

This is basically a classification that we use to classify the many microorganisms that convert ammonia to nitrite.

The nitrite is then convert to nitrate by nitrite-oxidizing bacteria, or NOB for short. When compared to ammonia or nitrite, this is significantly less hazardous to fish and other creatures. Nitrate becomes dangerous only when it builds up in your aquarium. This is precisely why some of us perform water changes. Nitrate that would normally accumulate removed by changing the water. This is a simple explanation of what happens in an aquarium that has matured, or cycled.

This is why, before adding your cattle, you must give it time. The formation of this nitrifying bacterium requires a time of maturation in new tanks. You can use various test kits to monitor the process by testing the water for ammonia, nitrite, and eventually nitrate. When nitrites are present, you will notice an increase in ammonia levels, which will then begin to plummet. Finally, you’ll notice an increase in nitrates, followed by a drop in ammonia and nitrite levels.

This indicates that the cycle is complete and that your aquarium contains both types of bacteria. To get the cycle start inside a fresh tank, there are a few things you must perform. Provide a source of ammonia to feed the bacteria and seed the tank with bacteria. There are a few different ways to get germs into a brand new aquarium. A few pieces of live rock or live sand from an established aquarium can added.

The disadvantage here is that you risk introducing pests. Cycling an aquarium with seasoned live rock is still a popular and extensively used technique.

You simply need a small amount of live rock or sand to seed the aquarium with germs. It’s ideal for putting dry rock or sand in your aquarium. To introduce the bacteria, use a small piece of live rock or a little scoop of live sand. As long as you have a source of ammonia. This bacteria will quickly spread across your tank’s whole surface, including the dry rock and sand. A liquid bacterium supplement is another option for populating the tank.

Liquid bacteria products aren’t all created equal. In an aquarium, some formulations contain microorganisms and enzymes that require time to grow and become abundant. Brightwell Aquatics MicroBacter7 is one of our favorites. Dr. Tim’s One and Only or Fritz Aquatics Turbo Start are two options if you truly want to jumpstart the cycle process. Contains live nitrifying bacteria that will get to work right away in your aquarium.


As long as ammonia is present, these products will operate. They can also help speed up the process of preparing the aquarium for the addition of fish and corals. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, regardless of the brand of bio additive you choose. Each of the instructions is distinct, containing different microorganism quantities and species. One thing to keep in mind is that aquariors frequently utilize both liquid nitrifiers and live rock and sand. This is because you want to do everything you can to get a diverse and healthy bacteria community in the aquarium as soon as possible.

Obtaining bacteria from a variety of sources in huge quantities can only aid the process.

You’ll need a source of ammonia after you’ve added live bacteria to the tank. Some aquarists may add a live fish and allow it to naturally produce ammonia. Feed the fish in moderation and keep an eye on the ammonia and nitrite levels. However, this may expose the fish to ammonia or nitrite poisoning. This is why, during the cycle process, you should choose a robust fish.

The fishless cycle intended to allow the biofilter to mature before adding marine life. Before adding livestock, this approach relies on a greater initial ammonia dose to force feed the bacteria and establish a substantial biofilter. Some aquarists place a piece of shrimp or phantom feed fish food in the aquarium.

Ammonia released as the meal decomposes. Another option is to fill the tank with a prepared ammonia solution.

Dr. Tim’s Ammonium Chloride has created specifically for ammonia addition. Should used in conjunction with a nitrifying bacteria supplement like Dr. Tim’s One and Only. Depending on the viability of the seed germs, the aquarium can take up to six weeks to complete the cycle. Nitrifying bacteria are slow-growing bacteria.

They divide and form larger colonies in response to ammonia and nitrite. So, especially if you’re doing a fishless cycle, count on four to six weeks.

The most important thing is to remain patient. Allow the bacteria to perform their work, and you may monitor the process with test kits. It’s crucial to keep this in mind as you add more livestock. To cope with the increased ammonia levels, the biofilter must adapt and develop. After a successful cycle, I usually recommend one or two fish every other week.

By staggering livestock additions, you can avoid overcrowding the aquarium with nutrients. This strategy provides the bacteria plenty of time to establish themselves and keep up with the extra waste in the tank. In this age of rapid gratification, some enthusiasts are concerned that the tank may not cycle or simply become impatient and add animals too soon. Don’t be that guy, as I and countless of others who have had aquariums before me have learned. It will only result in the death of animals and frustration.

Simply set up the tank, add your bacteria, and a source of ammonia. After that, wait a few weeks before evaluating your parameters.

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