When you start a new tank you must let the circle of life take over folks.
We usually call this the nitrogen cycle or sometimes the startup cycle but you will hear it called many different names. It is essentially the process of letting beneficial bacteria colonies establish themselves in your tank so that all your pretty corals and loveable fish can live.
Every new aquarium must go through the nitrogen cycle. It can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks or sometimes longer, but each tank is different so it will vary. You can find out where you are in the cycle by testing your water regularly.
The three components involved are ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. The best way to monitor the nitrogen cycle is by getting a saltwater test kit that will test the three components involved in the process. Test your water frequently and record your results to find the phase. Ammonia and Nitrites should test at zero, and Nitrates would ideally be at zero but can test up to 20 ppm (that’s parts per million for you folks in back) before you hit the danger zone. Once your tank has completed the nitrogen cycle, the nitrates are broken down by special types of bacteria which turn nitrates into harmless nitrogen gases which escape into the atmosphere. Your tank will remain more stable and you are now able to add some livestock.
I know what you are thinking, if there is no livestock to begin with then where does you ammonia come from?
Well, if you add live rock to your tank it will begin the cycle.
You can also throw some fish food in there to get it poppin.
There are a ton of great resources for learning about the ins and outs of the Nitrogen cycle out there on the interwebs.
Now go give your friends this science lesson…you’ll sound super smart!