The Nitrogen Cycle (Why does it matter?)

The Nitrogen Cycle (Why does it matter?)
Simple video explanation of the process:



Call it cycling, nitrification, biological cycle, startup cycle, break-in cycle, or the nitrogen cycle. No matter what name you use, every newly set up aquarium goes through a process of establishing beneficial bacterial colonies. Older aquariums also go through periods during which the bacterial colonies fluctuate. Failure to understand this process is the largest contributing factor to the loss of fish. Learning what it is, and how to deal with critical periods during the nitrogen cycle, will greatly increase your chances of successful fish keeping.

The Waste Problem

Unlike nature, an aquarium is a closed environment. All the wastes excreted from the fish, uneaten food, and decaying plants, stay inside the tank. If nothing eliminated those wastes, your beautiful aquarium would turn into a cesspool in no time at all.

Actually, for a short period of time, a new aquarium does become a toxic cesspool. The water may look clear, but don't be fooled. It's loaded with toxins, much like a septic tank. Sounds awful, doesn't it? Fortunately bacteria that are capable of converting wastes to safer by-products begin growing in the aquarium as soon as fish are added. Unfortunately there aren't enough bacteria to eliminate all the toxins immediately, so for a period of several weeks to a month or more, your fish are at risk.

However, you need not lose them. Armed with an understanding of how the nitrogen cycle works and knowing the proper steps to take, you can sail through the break-in cycle with very few problems.

Simple video explanation of the process: