You're so happy now that you have made the decision to welcome fish into your home as your new pets! But, wait! For everyone to have not only a happy homecoming, but a long and fulfilling life
together, get everything ready for your new guests who will soon be part of your family! It will be well worth the wait to make their living quarters comfortable and most importantly: safe! Once you have the perfect aquarium and all the trimmings, the most important thing you can do is prepare the water for your fish since their water is like air is to us! A clean, healthy environment for your new friends will go a long way towards making your new relationship a long, rewarding one for everyone involved! So, how do your accomplish this, you ask? The answer is ... CYCLING the water!
To begin,for your freshwater aquarium, cycling means completing the nitrification cycle. You must do this before you bring your fish home to ensure their safety and everyone's happiness in the long run. The traditional method is to first have the temperature stabilized at 74 degrees to 80 degrees fahrenheit and then to place one hardy, inexpensive fish for each 2 - 3 gallons of water. This could be, for example; danios, platys, barbs, and mollies. These fish will provide the initial ammonia to get started. (biological filtration) This could take 4-6 weeks. Fewer fish will be less stressed as they have to adjust to the changing water parameters. After about 6 weeks, when the water has "cycled", you can add more fish!
Another method is the fishless method, and to utilize this one, you will use higher temperatures of 86 degrees to 95 degrees fahrenheit to get optimum bacteria. You must stabilize the aquarium slowly back to lower temperatures before you add fish. You can seed the aquarium with some gravel or filter media with existing bacteria from an existing aquarium; or there are several brands of nutrifying bacteria in the form of commercial preparations available at pet stores.
The above are just a couple of ways of cycling your aquarium water, but whatever way you choose, preparation is the key so that you and your fishes will have a fin-tastic life!