Did you know that there is a harmless way to cycle your freshwater fish tank? Wow, thank goodness someone thought of this, because youíve probably heard of or had experience with what happens to your fish with the traditional way of cycling the water for an aquarium: Some fish may die and other fish end up with permanent gill damage! So, here are the basics of how to cycle your fish tank without using your fish!
You are going to be adding your own ammonia instead of putting in fish that can end up getting sacrificed because they die from ammonia poisoning since they were used to produce the ammonia needed to cycle the tank water. Why use the fish for this cruel purpose when you donít actually need them to produce the ammonia?
So, first, you will need to have: filter media, water movement, the correct type of bacteria, ammonia, a dropper, and a test kit for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.
Turn on everything in your fish tank and add some potted plants (Crypts or Amazon Swords are possible plants.) so that the roots will add the bacteria and the plants should be o.k. Add 4 or 5 drops of ammonia for every 10 gallons of water. Your ammonia kit should give you a reading of 5 ppm. Write this down and then add that amount every day until you get a nitrite spike. As soon as you have nitrites, change the amount of ammonia to half of what you put in before. Do this daily until you no longer have nitrites. Simple, right?! Please stick to these instructions, or the cycling may take longer.
Youíre done when the ammonia and nitrite levels are at 0 and the pH number is staying constant. The whole process takes 1 Ĺ - 3 weeks depending on your fish tank. At this point, though, your nitrates are probably too high, so test for nitrates. More than 20 ppm is too high. If the nitrates are too high, perform a water change of about 50% to get the nitrates down to below a toxic level.
Now you can start to gradually add your fish to the tank!
As for the ammonia you should use, youíll need Clear Ammonia that has no soap in it; so if it suds up, itís not the right one. It also should contain no perfumes or colorants.
If, while doing the tank cycling, youíve found that you have added too much ammonia - just do a water change. Once you are done with cycling your tank, itís good to keep in mind that most fish can stand the ammonia levels up to 1 ppm without permanent damage and nitrites up to 0.25 ppm.
If it's your first time cycling a fish tank - don't worry - just get started and use your test kit to check ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Be sure to write it down each time. Do a water change if you need to. Once your water test kit tells you the levels are correct - then that's it! You did it! Good job - you are now on your way to creating heaven on Earth for your fishy friends! Your fish will appreciate it!