Nitrogen Cycle - an easy to understand diagram

Discussion in 'Water Parameters and Additives' started by Jaco Schoeman, 9 Feb 2010.

  1. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman MASA Contributor

    Joined:
    22 Dec 2008
    Posts:
    2,241
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    JHB
    This is to help newbies understand the Nitrogen Cycle a bit better. I got this from another site, so this is not my own write-up, but usefull none the less...;)

    [​IMG]



    Nitrogen Cycle Stages
    Stage 1
    Ammonia is introduced into the aquarium via tropical fish waste and uneaten food. The tropical fish waste and excess food will break down into either ionized ammonium (NH4) or un-ionized ammonia (NH3). Ammonium is not harmful to tropical fish but ammonia is. Whether the material turns into ammonium or ammonia depends on the ph level of the water. If the ph is under 7, you will have ammonium. If the ph is 7 or higher you will have ammonia.
    Stage 2
    Soon, bacteria called nitrosomonas will develop and they will oxidize the ammonia in the tank, essentially eliminating it. The byproduct of ammonia oxidation is Nitrites. So we no longer have ammonia in the tank, but we now have another toxin to deal with - Nitrites. Nitrites are just as toxic to tropical fish as ammonia. If you have a test kit, you should be able to see the nitrite levels rise around the end of the first or second week.
    Stage 3
    Bacteria called nitrobacter will develop and they will convert the nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates are not as harmful to tropical fish as ammonia or nitrites, but nitrate is still harmful in large amounts. The quickest way to rid your aquarium of nitrates is to perform partial water changes. Once your tank is established you will need to monitor your tank water for high nitrate levels and perform partial water changes as necessary. There are other methods to control nitrates in aquariums besides water changes. For freshwater fish tanks, live aquarium plants will use up some of the nitrates. In saltwater fish tanks, live rock and deep sand beds can have anaerobic areas where denitrifying bacteria can breakdown nitrates into harmless nitrogen gas that escapes through the water surface of the aquarium.
    Getting The Nitrogen Cycle Started
    There are two ways to get the aquarium cycle started, either with fish or without fish. Starting The Nitrogen Cycle With Fish
    This is not the preferred way to get the nitrogen cycle started because the fish are being exposed to ammonia and nitrites during this process. Many fish can not and will not make it through the cycling process. Often times the fish become stressed and fish disease starts to break out. I wonder what percentage of disease is caused by the cycling of new aquariums?


    Starting The Nitrogen Cycle Fishless
    There are a few different ways to get this process started. To easily get an ammonia reading from your tank water try the Seachem Ammonia Alert. It sticks inside the tank and has a circle that changes color depending on the ammonia levels in the tank.
    • Option 1:
      Using Fish Food
      Drop in a few flakes every 12 hours. As the food decomposes it will release ammonia. You will have to continue to "feed" the tank throughout the process to keep it going.
    • Option 2:
      Use a small piece of raw fish or a raw shrimp
      Drop a 2 inch by 1 inch chunk of raw fish or a raw shrimp into the tank. As it decomposes it will release ammonia into the tank.
    • Option 3:
      Use gravel and/or filter media from an established and cycled tank
      This is the best and fastest way to go. This will seed the tank with all of the necessary bacteria for the nitrogen cycle. "Feed" the tank daily with flake food until you are getting nitrate readings. Depending on how fast you were able to get the gravel and filter media into your tank, you may be getting nitrate readings in only a day or two. There are some drawbacks to this method. Ask your source if they have recently used any copper medications in the tank. If they have and you are planning to have invertebrates in the tank you should probably not use this method. Invertebrates will not tolerate copper. Get a copper test kit to determine if it's safe to use.
    • Option 4:
      Using live rock in Saltwater Tanks
      The use of live rock in saltwater tanks has really taken off over the past few years. The reason for this is because it is one of the best forms of biological filtration available for saltwater tanks. The shape the rock is in when you get it will determine how long the nitrogen cycle will take. See step 7 on the saltwater setup page for more information on live rock.
    Speeding Up the Cycling Process
    There are things you can do to speed along the process of cycling your aquarium.
    • Increase the temperature of your aquarium water to 80°F-82°F (27°C-28°C)
    • Get some beneficial bacteria colonies. Borrow some gravel from an established and cycled aquarium. If you have another tank with an extra filter you can use it. If you have a really nice friend with an established and cycled aquarium, ask if you can have one of their used filter media. It will be loaded with the good bacteria that we are looking for.
    • There are products on the market that claim to introduce the beneficial bacteria. For more information, check out products like Bio-spira and Tetra SafeStart in option 6 above. There are many more products entering the market that contain the beneficial bacteria necessary to seed your tank. Between live rock (for saltwater aquariums) and the bottled bacteria being readily available, there really is no excuse to make fish suffer through a cycle.
     
  2. AdS Guest




    to hide all adverts.
  3. Warr7207

    Warr7207

    Joined:
    28 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    12,781
    Likes Received:
    31
    Location:
    JHB
    Cool info, but I think you should list the site you got this from, to not infringe copyrights etc. ;)
     
  4. Warr7207

    Warr7207

    Joined:
    28 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    12,781
    Likes Received:
    31
    Location:
    JHB
  5. Jaco Schoeman

    Jaco Schoeman Thread Starter MASA Contributor

    Joined:
    22 Dec 2008
    Posts:
    2,241
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    JHB
    Jip, that's it. I did edit out one or two things though, as some of it I have never heard of or I do not agree entirely, and I am scared that nuubs might follow that root, and get it all wrong... ;)
     
  6. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

    Joined:
    14 Dec 2008
    Posts:
    16,771
    Likes Received:
    582
    Location:
    Sandton
    hehe, but i disagree, it needs to be posted in its entirety to be complete, cannot edit things we dont like out as this forum would be empty too
     
  7. clinton stanford

    clinton stanford

    Joined:
    11 Mar 2009
    Posts:
    2,210
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    East London
    nice info there;)
     
Recent Posts

Loading...
Similar Threads - Nitrogen Cycle easy Forum Date
Nitrogen cycle General Discussions and Advice 24 Jun 2016
How to kick start the nitrogen cycle General Discussions and Advice 25 Nov 2015
Understand the Nitrogen Cycle in Aquariums/Ponds JungleAquatics.NET BLOG 14 Jun 2015
The Marine Nitrogen cycle simply explained. Idol Marine 12 Feb 2015
Nitrogen Cycle Beginner Discussions 15 Apr 2013
Aquarium Chemistry: The Nitrogen Cycle: New Developments and New Prospects Water Parameters and Additives 20 Apr 2011
Planet's Nitrogen Cycle Overturned By 'Tiny Ammonia Eater Of The Seas' Diving, Collecting and Environmental Discussions 16 Oct 2009